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by Tim Beissmann

A Victorian coroner has ruled there were no systematic safety faults with the Volkswagen Golf being driven by a woman who died in a crash in Melbourne in 2011.

Coroner Heather Spooner said there was no evidence that the 2008 Volkswagen Golf of 32-year-old Melissa Ryan suddenly lost power, suggesting it was more likely that she was distracted by a hands-free telephone conversation she was having at the time of the crash.

Ryan died in January 2011 when her Volkswagen was hit from behind by a truck and crashed into a barrier on the Monash Freeway.

Ryan’s family believed a defect with the car that caused it to suddenly lose power was responsible for her death, and called on the coroner to investigate the issue after approximately 300 other Volkswagen owners made similar claims of losing power in their cars.

Reports from the Federal Government’s department of infrastructure and industry and Volkswagen Group Australia found no evidence of faults with the type of vehicle Ryan was driving, leading the coroner to her conclusion.

Spooner recommended VicRoads consider a complete ban on using mobile phones when driving and suggested the development of in-vehicle technologies that prevented drivers from using phones while behind the wheel should be a subject of further research.

Ryan’s family expressed disappointment with findings, saying they believed too much emphasis was placed on her telephone conversation and the report of the police major collision unit, which did not attend the crash scene, and hoped for a more comprehensive review of the complaints from other Volkswagen drivers.

Volkswagen Group Australia today acknowledged the coroner’s findings that found the vehicle did not contribute to the cause of the accident.

“Our sincere thoughts and sympathies remain with the Ryan family in what are tragic and very distressing circumstances,” Volkswagen said in a statement.

Volkswagen reiterated that there was no correlation between Ryan’s car, which was equipped with a manual transmission, and the recalls affecting Volkswagen vehicles with dual-clutch DSG automatic transmissions.




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