Prevention - Better Than Cure

A car safety system, shown to reduce the likelihood of involvement in some accidents by up to a third, should feature high on the shopping list of priorities when choosing a new car according to the RAC Foundation launching the latest Euro NCAP (The European New Car Assessment Programme) results today (28th June).

While the Euro NCAP testing results have traditionally concentrated on highlighting to consumers the cars which offer the greatest protection in an accident - this time, both organisations are also alerting drivers to developments in technology which will help to prevent a collision.

They are issuing a strong recommendation that motorists ensure their next car is fitted with a stability control system. Available from most manufacturers, these systems dramatically reduce the chances of being involved in an accident by helping drivers to maintain control of their vehicles. If a driver has misjudged a corner or suddenly swerves to avoid an obstacle, stability control can help avoid a skid and can turn an accident into a near miss.

Stability control evolved from other technologies such as traction control and anti-lock brakes. This tried and tested technology, along with some additional sensors, feeds information to a computerised control unit. The signals are continuously monitored to determine whether or not the vehicle is losing control. If a deviation from the intended course is detected, the control unit applies a small amount of braking to whichever wheel is needed to help stabilize the course of the vehicle. Some systems also adjust the power output of the engine to help further. This is all done by the control unit which reacts faster than even the best driver could manage. The driver may not know that the system has intervened.

Studies have shown that cars fitted with Stability Control are less involved in certain types of accidents than those without. In Sweden*, an overall reduction of 22% has been detected, rising to 32% just in wet conditions, and a study in Japan** has suggested a decrease in accident involvement of some 30 to 35 per cent. American and German studies have shown similar positive results.

Edmund King, executive director of the RAC Foundation said:

"The safest car on the road is the one which does not get involved in accidents. Driving carefully and attentively is perhaps the best way to reduce the chances of being in a crash but technology can play an important role, too. That is why advice is being extended to cover developments in technology, such as Stability Control, which will help protect drivers and their passengers"

Further information on stability control systems and advice to motorists on what to consider when purchasing a new car, along with star ratings for all the latest cars on sale across Europe can be found on the Euro NCAP website

In the latest crash test figures, the RAC Foundation welcomed the fact that more than half of the cars tested achieved the top five star rating for adult occupant protection and that three of the cars achieved the ‘Best in Class’ accolade but urged manufacturers to do more to improve safety for pedestrians and other vulnerable road users.

Out of those tested for pedestrian safety, only two models (the Honda FR-V and the Suzuki Swift) achieved three stars in this category and five only managed one star.

More cars than ever are achieving the four-star child protection rating and while a very welcome development, it is important to note that the rating applies only to the car in combination with the particular restraint used.

The Peugeot’s 1007 becomes the highest scoring car ever in all classes for adult occupant protection. The Peugeot is also best in the Super Mini Class and is one of seven cars to be awarded the coveted five star adult occupant rating.

Other crashworthiness results for executive cars, family cars, small family cars, super-minis and small MPV’s will be launched at a press conference today (28 June) in Stockholm co-hosted by Euro NCAP and the Swedish Road Administration (SRA).

‘Best in Class’ awards for adult occupant protection were also announced for the Lexus GS300 (executive) and Mercedes A-Class (small family). Seven cars have achieved the four star Euro NCAP rating for child protection.

In this phase, intelligent seat belt reminders for rear seat occupants have been introduced by Peugeot in their 1007 and by Mercedes in their A-Class. Two cars reported on in earlier phases, the Renault Laguna and Renault Vel Satis have had their Seat Belt Reminder systems extended to cover the Front Passenger. All of this is significant, as increased seat belt wearing rates are essential if we are to maximise the enormous safety gains achieved by Euro NCAP over recent years and save the 7,000 fatalities attributed to non-belt use in Europe.

29 June 2005 Staff

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