A motorist had a miraculous escape after the bonnet of her new car flung open into her windscreen – in the fast lane of the motorway.
Terrified Vittoria Saia, 22, was left driving ‘blind’ when the bonnet of her second-hand Renault Clio suddenly sprung up at 70mph in heavy traffic.
The metal sheet smashed back into her windscreen – splintering the glass – and completely blocked her view of the road ahead.
Remarkably, with the help of her partner in the passenger seat, Vittoria managed to weave through the traffic and safely pull her car onto the hard shoulder.
She later found out the car’s previous owner had IGNORED two safety recalls from Renault to check the bonnet catch – after a raft of complaints to the car manufacturer.
Vittoria, of Walsall, West Midlands, said: ”I honestly thought I was going to die. The bonnet completely blocked the windscreen and I couldn’t see a thing.
”I don’t know how I managed to stop and pull over without killing myself.
”It was a reflex reaction – I put my hazard lights on and I managed to get over onto the hard shoulder. I cannot believe I survived.”
Recruitment consultant Vittoria bought the silver 2004 Renault Clio II – her first car – for £2,500 at auction in March.
But unbeknown to her, the model was the subject of a recall in 2007 because of a problem with the bonnet catch which caused a number of similar incidents.
Renault wrote to the then owner of the car twice asking for the vehicle to be taken into the garage for checks – but this was never done.
Vittoria and her partner Roy Chauan, 38, were going for their first spin in the car on March 9 this year when the bonnet suddenly sprang open near junction one of the M5 near Birmingham.
”It was just a split second reaction to get the car onto the hard shoulder – then I had time to reflect on what could have happened,” she said.
”The damage to the car was unbelievable. I had set my heart on the Clio but after one day it was a mess.”
Vittoria’s Clio is now back on the road after her insurer paid £2,000 to repair it – costing her £350 excess.
She added: ”I now refuse to go on the motorway and won’t travel more than 60mph.
”I’m just terrified that it is going to happen again.”
Renault denied there was a fault with the Clio II bonnet but wrote to 400,000 owners in 2007 after the BBC’s Watchdog team exposed cases of the bonnet flinging open.
Owners were urged to take their cars to their local dealership for a free safety check.
A spokesman for Renault said: ”Renault has investigated the cause of these incidents and worked with all the relevant authorities, including Vehicle Operator Services Agency (VOSA).
”No design or construction defect has been found.
”The bonnet catch mechanism of the Clio II is safe, reliable and fit for purpose providing the vehicle is maintained correctly and the bonnet is closed as prescribed.
”Renault used the DVLA database to write to owners of Clio II in 2007 asking them to make an appointment to visit their Renault dealership for the bonnet catch mechanism to be checked and, if necessary, replaced free-of-charge.
”This was sent to the then owner of Mrs Saia’s Clio in May 2007. Renault issued a second mailing by recorded delivery in 2008.”