OVER and under-inflated tyres were partly to blame for an accident in which a 29-year-old man died, an inquest heard.
Peter Enright, 29, was killed when his Toyota MR2 car span out of control on the A1(M) south of Bowburn and crashed through the central reservation.
Mr Enright had been visiting his parents in Houghton and was on his way home to Nottingham when the crash happened at about 4pm on February 17 last year.
The inquest at the Coroner’s Court in Crook heard Mr Enright had bought the car the previous day from his uncle, Michael Enright, in Chester-le-Street.
Mr Michael Enright inflated the tyres on the day of the sale using a pump without a gauge.
Accident investigator Pc Michael Bell said: “One tyre had 65psi, another 26psi, another 37psi.
“The fourth tyre was deflated by the collision and could not be checked.
“We contacted Toyota who said the correct pressure is 30psi, and, as a powerful, lightweight car, the MR2 is particularly sensitive to tyre pressures. Their engineer said 65psi would make the car handle as if on ice.”
Driver David Wilson said he was doing 77mph when the MR2 passed him.
“The back end twitched,” he told the hearing. “Then it snaked left to right, the movement becoming more pronounced.
“Then it span quickly and I saw the front facing me. Its front nearside hit the barrier. I expected it to bounce back, but it went through.”
The MR2 hit a Citroen C2 on the other carriageway, driven by a 77-year-old man.
Mr Enright, of Horsendale Avenue, Nottingham, died of multiple injuries.
A post-mortem examination found he had taken no drink or drugs.
The central reservation barrier on that stretch of the road is made from wire ropes.
Gavin Williams, of the Transport Research Laboratory, said the wire rope barriers were at least as strong as the more popular corrugated steel barriers, often called Armco.
Mr Williams said all steel barriers were designed to withstand a glancing blow, and he was not surprised a spinning car at high speed had crashed through.
Christopher Holehouse, of the Highways Agency, said higher concrete barriers are safer than all types of steel and concrete is now the “preferred option” for new installations.
Durham Coroner Andrew Tweddle said he will ask the Highways Agency if there is a way of improving existing barriers at reasonable cost, pending replacement with concrete.
Peter’s parents, Susan and Steven, declined to comment on the inquest, but said they wished to thank the police for their investigation and the witnesses who attended the hearing.
•Verdict: Accidental death