Motorists modifying cars ‘risking road users’ safety’

SOME young motorists are putting themselves and other road users in danger by modifying their vehicles with cheap unsafe parts and without sufficient mechanical expertise, according to a local car dealer and mechanic.


Andy Ruellan, owner of Ruellans Garage and president of the Jersey Motor Trades Federation, said that the issue was another reason why MOT-style tests would improve road safety for all.

He made the comments as the States police’s Operation Canvas, a campaign to crack down on those speeding during lockdown, continues. Officers are targeting drivers who have made modifications – such as lowering the suspension, changing the exhaust and fitting stealth number plates to avoid detection – to their vehicles.

The campaign saw the police make 14 arrests and admit 38 vehicles to DVS, while a further 19 vehicles were impounded.

Mr Ruellan, said that modifications – if carried out properly by a certified garage – could be safe.

‘The problem is younger drivers who carry them out at home won’t be skilled enough to fit the parts properly and will use cheap low-quality components bought online from places like China, which will affect the integrity of the vehicle and make it unsafe,’ he said.

Mr Ruellan added that parts needed to make certain modifications were not always available from the car manufacturer and said that the introduction of MOT-style tests could allow for car verification.

‘If you lower your suspension to the point where your wheels are touching the bodywork of the car, the steering becomes restrictive, which could cause an accident and put yourself and others in danger,’ he explained.

‘Everywhere else in Europe has its own style of verifying cars. Responsible motorists have absolutely nothing to worry about and it would encourage those wanting to modify their cars to go get the work done properly to a certified standard. I want to see multiple options for having a car checked. Garages with the right capacity could gain authorisation to carry out the tests and there could also be an independent testing facility for those who don’t want to go to a garage.’

Another mechanic, who does not wish to be named, said the problem was that there was no rule book to follow. He called on authorities to give drivers a standard by which they could be tested.

‘Help us to help you,’ he said. ‘If we have a minimum standard to go by, then people won’t abuse the law and their cars as much.

‘If fitted properly, there is nothing wrong with modifications but the problem is that younger drivers don’t have the money to buy proper parts and fit them correctly.’

Improper amendments to vehicles can also have insurance implications, and Mr Ruellan said that, to ensure a vehicle was covered, insurers had to be notified of any modifications made to it.

Darren Wetheridge, head of personal lines at Rossborough Insurance, said: ‘Not all insurers will cover modified vehicles so, even if it is a small modification, it could have a significant impact on price because the most competitive insurer for the standard car may no longer take the risk. This means finding another insurer whose original premium might not have been as competitive in the first instance. In most cases, modifications will affect your insurance.

‘If you want to modify a car, talk to us beforehand. Even something minor could be classed as an increased risk by your insurer and alter your premium.’

A government spokesperson said that DVS was continuing to support the police with Operation Canvas and all routine road checks.

The spokesperson added: ‘Any changes made to vehicles must comply with the Motor Vehicles law. Penalties for non-compliant vehicles will be judged on a case-by-case basis by an officer at the roadside. If necessary the vehicle will be required to be taken to DVS at La Collette for a detailed inspection.

‘Alterations to an exhaust pipe must comply with emission levels set out under the law. Vehicles will be inspected at the roadside and, if emissions are deemed excessive, further investigations will take place at the test station at DVS.

‘Lowered suspension may lead to unintended consequences whereby the vehicle may contact the road surface or have insufficient clearance between wheels and bodywork. Any alterations must comply with legal requirements.

‘Number plates must comply with the specifications in accordance with the law. It is an offence to alter a number plate or display an illegal number plate.’

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