AS MANY as 90,000 motorists may be driving around with badly fitted windscreens which could cost them their lives in a crash, an Oireachtas committee has heard.
A survey estimated that between 59,000 and 90,000 cars could have had their windscreens incorrectly replaced with inferior materials.
In a presentation to the Oireachtas Transport Committee, Autoglass Ireland said a windscreen accounted for up to 30pc of the structural integrity of a car. It also helped prevent the roof collapsing in the the event of the car rolling over in a crash.
Company officials said that the airbag relies on support from the windscreen to work properly.
A survey commissioned by Autoglass Ireland and carried out by the UK's Transport Research Laboratory found more than 35pc of replaced windscreens had a safety issue, with more than 14pc of these rated as serious.
The study also found that some windscreens were so badly fitted they could be pushed out by hand.
Autoglass Ireland general manager Heiner Herz said the "shocking" study showed that some windscreens were being replaced with inferior materials and incorrect practices which could have a serious impact on the motorist.
He said it showed that between 59,000 to 90,000 windscreens in Ireland could have significant safety issues, based on the numbers replaced over a five-year period.
"The result of this practice is that corners are cut and the lives of motorists are put at risk," he said.
Mr Herz said that new cars were not affected, as the problem only affected replacement windscreens.
"The problem is exacerbated by the lack of regulation governing the type of materials and the standards applied to those that fit the materials.
"Customers are entitled under the law to have any component of their vehicle replaced or repaired to the same standard that it was before damage occurred. The TRL evidence shows that this is simply not happening."
The committee agreed to draw up a report for the Department of Transport and the Road Safety Authority which it is due to hear evidence from next week.