Safety tests prevent 182,000 road casualties

Euro NCAP safety tests have prevented more than 182,000 people from being killed or seriously injured in a car in the past two decades.

That’s the equivalent of 15,000 per year. Over the same period the number of pedestrians and cyclists killed or seriously injured has fallen by 40% from 14,500 in 1997 to 8,500 in 2015.

The tests, introduced in February 1997 and in the face of fierce motor industry opposition, exposed hidden dangers in top-selling family cars, forcing a fundamental rethink in the way vehicles were designed to prevent injuries and save lives.

Now, nine out of every 10 cars sold in Europe include a Euro NCAP rating

Thatcham Research, which conducts UK tests for Euro NCAP, estimates that advances driven by rigorous testing has helped deliver a 63% reduction in car occupants killed and seriously injured, from 23,000 in 1997 to 8,500 in 2015.

It’s now urging consumers to improve safety on Britain’s road still further by buying only models with a five star Euro NCAP rating and a collision avoidance technology like AEB and Lane Assist systems. It’s also called on manufacturers to make AEB (Autonomous Emergency Braking) standard fitment, to prevent thousands of accidents.

The call came as Thatcham Research, which conducts Euro NCAP tests in the UK, estimated that if AEB that can sense pedestrians and cyclists became standard on every new car sold in the UK, it would save 2,700 pedestrian and cyclist deaths and serious injuries every year.

Euro NCAP’s Secretary General, Michiel van Ratingen said, ‘As we mark 20 years at the forefront of road safety, we are very proud that Euro NCAP’s programme of safety tests has achieved major, life-saving improvements in cars and has helped Europe reach the lowest road fatality rate for any region in the world.

‘Euro NCAP has given millions of consumers the knowledge and confidence to choose the safest cars possible. Recent years have shown a slowdown in the progress rate, however, so we mustn’t take our foot off the gas. We want to ensure that Europe’s roads get even safer in the next 20 years, not just for car occupants but for all participants in traffic. We already test many more aspects of a car’s safety than we did when we started in 1997, and that is set to continue. Next year, we will test systems that recognise and avoid crashes with cyclists, and we’re lining up a very challenging roadmap for 2020 to 2025.’

In the last 20 years Euro NCAP has assessed 629 different car models. Safety technologies that were non-existent or optional at best, such as driver and passenger airbags, side curtain airbags, seatbelt reminders and electronic stability control, are now standard on most cars sold in Europe.

‘Euro NCAP has fundamentally changed the way that vehicle buyers and vehicle manufacturers value safety,’ said Peter Shaw, chief executive at Thatcham Research. ‘In 1997, many motorists were still choosing not to wear seatbelts. Only a few years later we were demanding airbags, side impact protection and other safety systems. You’re now twice as likely to walk away from a car cash compared with twenty years ago. These major changes in the way people and manufacturers prioritise safety are all thanks to Euro NCAP.

‘The focus now is all about crash prevention. Making sure that Britain’s roads continue to become even safer, not just for car occupants but for every road user. We have come a long way since the days when manufacturers met only the most basic, mandatory, safety requirements but we must continue to apply pressure.’

Max Mosley, the first chairman of Euro NCAP and chairman of Global NCAP said, ‘Twenty years on from what started as a controversial programme, rejected by manufacturers, and supposedly aiming for unrealistic safety standards, Euro NCAP is now firmly part of the automotive mainstream. Thousands of fatalities have been prevented, consumer demand for safety is high, manufacturers compete on safety rating results, and vehicle safety standards continue to improve.

‘The consumer awareness model deployed so effectively by Euro NCAP has not just fundamentally changed the European market, it has helped to catalyse other NCAPs across the world in middle and low income countries. Consumer pressure informed by crash tests is helping to make rapid changes in levels of safety in India, Latin America and the ASEAN region. Euro NCAP has truly had a global impact, a proud road safety legacy that has saved countless lives.’

Euro NCAP president and Thatcham Research chief technical officer, Andrew Miller, added, ‘The impact of these tests cannot be overstated. Until Euro NCAP, consumers only had the manufacturers’ word for it. Now we have the safest cars ever and the safety levels of each car are there for all to see. This success could only be achieved by actively working together in Europe under one umbrella and by continuing to invest in better safety.’

In the near future, other new technologies being tested by Euro NCAP for inclusion in the 2018 rating system, include: Lane Assist systems to control steering if there are potential risks; tests to reduce crashes at junctions; Pedestrian AEB that works at night time and new AEB cyclist detection tests to encourage manufacturers to further enhance these important technologies.