Disabled drivers fume over loss of transport

TESSA JOHNSTONE
Last updated 07:20 19/03/2014
Lindsay McGregor is currently in a legal battle with the New Zealand Transport Association over the road worthiness of his Skoda car remodelled to accommodate his wheelchair.
Fairfax NZ

STALLED: Lindsay McGregor is currently in a legal battle with the New Zealand Transport Association over the road worthiness of his Skoda car remodelled to accommodate his wheelchair.

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A group of disabled drivers is frustrated by a continuing dispute about whether a car modified for wheelchair users is safe to be on the roads.

The NZ Transport Agency revoked warrants of fitness for eight heavily modified Skoda Yetis in December after a review of the paperwork highlighted serious safety concerns.

Manufacturer U Drive Mobility maintains the cars are fit for the road - and the owners of the $85,000 vehicles agree.

Auckland's Lindsay McGregor said he drove the car for seven months before it was pulled from the road and had no concerns about the aluminium composite floor or the independent rear suspension.

"Without a doubt, every one of us [owners] believes the car is perfectly safe."

NZTA gave the drivers a one-off $5000 transport grant until the issues could be resolved, but Mr McGregor said the money was nearly gone and he was unable to leave the house except for work.

The organisation that signed off the vehicles, the Low Volume Vehicle Technical Association, had a moral responsibility to the affected drivers, he said.

"No matter what, if it wasn't for their certification, we wouldn't have purchased their car. I maintain that if they can't approve this car, they should be liable to us for the purchase prices ... From a moral point of view, their system was at fault and they allowed this to happen."

NZTA spokeswoman Celia Patrick said the agency, while sympathetic, had a legal responsibility to prevent potentially unsafe vehicles from being on the road.

A solution had been put to the manufacturer to consider and, while the manufacturer had not yet agreed, it was confident it could bring the vehicles into compliance so they could be used again.

U Drive Mobility director Roger Phillips said he hoped any outstanding issues would be resolved with the NZTA this week.

"We're making real progress."

The Low Volume Vehicle Technical Association said it had withdrawn from the process by mutual agreement with NZTA after it became clear the manufacturer had no intention of addressing the concerns.

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- The Dominion Post

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