Mike Waters' Blog: 19 November 2008 - Tip the safety balance in your favour
25 November 2008
Mike Waters is head of market analysis at Arval
If you're looking for a safe car to drive the first port of call should be the Euro NCAP website where you can find safety ratings on most makes and models in the market place. Top performers in the star rating system include the BMW 1-series, Citroen C4, Ford Focus, Kia Ceed, Renault Megane and the VW Golf.
There is no substitute for driving safely and drivers should never forget this, but sometimes a driver is just in the wrong place at the wrong time. With statistics from the AA showing that around 34,000 people are killed or seriously injured a year in road accidents, Smart vehicle selection has the potential to save your life.
The Euro NCAP tests provide an independent assessment of the safety performance of popular cars sold in Europe allowing the consumer to make an informed safety decision. These tests have evolved over time and as well as a rating out of five stars for occupant protection, also now consider the safety of children in the car and pedestrians.
As part of this evolution Euro NCAP has announced that the scoring behind the car safety rating is about to change. As a consequence vehicles will undergo a tougher and more comprehensive assessment. From a consumer perspective, rather than several scores for different areas of safety a single star rating will be given, which should simplify the process.
This overall rating takes four areas into account: the adult occupant, child occupant, pedestrian protection and a new area, safety assist. This will consider driver assistance systems and active safety technologies, which play an increasingly important role in accident avoidance and injury mitigation.
This means that going forward, without ESC, it is impossible to get five stars. Having just become compulsory on the Arval fleet; ESC works by stabilising the vehicle in critical situations, preventing skidding by monitoring the position of the steering wheel and comparing it with the direction that the car is heading. Sensors around the car detect if a vehicle is straying from the intended line of travel and help to bring it back on track by braking individual wheels.
A while ago I was given the opportunity to test the technology. The difference that it makes is amazing, turning a potential skid into something that, while not pleasant, you can control.
You should never lose sight of the decisions that you can take to reduce your road risk; drive carefully, within the speed limits, within the law and don't take risks. But at the same time, when you are changing car you'd be stupid not to make safety performance a consideration. The AA will tell you that one in 200 of us die on the roads, a shockingly high number, so tip the balance in your favour, drive safely and get the best technology around you.