A MOTORIST killed when he lost control of his sports car on the A1(M) had bought the vehicle from his uncle just the previous night.
Peter Enright died of multiple injuries when he crashed his Toyota MR2 between Bowburn and Bradbury, on Sunday, February 17, last year.
An inquest, held at Crook Civic Centre yesterday (Thursday, April 24), heard the 29-year-old accountant was unfamiliar with the car having just bought it from his uncle, Michael Enright, of Chester-le-Street.
Accident investigators discovered the wheels of the Japanese import had been changed from the original 15 inch alloys to 17 inch and the tyres were overinflated.
PC Michael Bell, of Durham police’s collision investigation unit, said a Toyota expert said the high tyre pressure would affect its handling at high speed so dramatically it would be like driving on ice.
Sgt Phil Grieve said Mr Enright had spent the weekend with family in the Houghton-le-Spring area to celebrate his sister Stephanie’s engagement when he decided to buy the car from his uncle for £950.
Before selling the vehicle to his nephew, Michael Enright checked it was in running order and put extra air in the tyres believing they looked flat.
Peter Enright was less than ten miles into his journey home to Nottingham the next day when he lost control of the vehicle.
Witnesses recalled the yellow Toyota twitching and snaking across two lanes before spinning into the central reservation barrier and crossing to the opposite carriageway.
There it hit a Citreon C2, driven by a 76-year-old man who survived.
PC Bell said: “It could have been that the driver was trying to understand the strange handling of the vehicle - it was rear wheel drive, quite high power and quite light.”
Coroner Andrew Tweddle voiced concerns about how the car was able to breach the central reservation barrier.
Gavin Williams, from the Transport Research Laboratory, said the wire rope fence in place had met British and European safety standards and was effective in tests and the vast majority of real life situations.
He said precast concrete barriers are now considered a better safety measure than metal fencing.
Christopher Holehouse, from the Highways Agency, said concrete barriers are safe, cost efficient long term and low maintenance so are being installed as major roads are upgraded or steel barriers need replacing.
He said it would cost £10bn to replace all steel barriers with concrete ones but the entire annual budget of the Agency is £2bn.
Mr Tweddle concluded that Mr Enright died as a result of an accident.
He said he will ask the appropriate government department to consider whether there is a ‘middle ground’ option to improve the current situation while awaiting widespread upgrades to concrete barriers and whether testing of barrier systems is sufficient.