- The ground-breaking work of Euro NCAP has helped deliver killed and seriously injured car occupant reductions of 182,000 in the UK since 1997
- UK car occupant deaths and injuries down by 63 per cent over 20 years
- Cars ‘safest ever’ with 9 out of 10 cars sold on the European market holding a Euro NCAP rating
- 2,700 deaths and serious injuries in the UK could be saved every year if AEB that can sense both pedestrians and cyclists became standard on every new car
- Consumers urged to ONLY buy Euro NCAP Five Star-rated cars with collision avoidance technology like AEB and Lane Assist systems
- New tests in 2018 to address lane control, pedestrian night-time safety, junction crashes and cyclist protection
MORE than 182,000 killed and serious injuries have been saved on UK roads since revolutionary Euro NCAP car safety tests were launched 20 years ago. In 2015, 15,000 fewer car occupants were killed and seriously injured.
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.Twenty years on, 9 out of 10 cars sold on the European market hold a Euro NCAP rating.
Today, as the results of a crash-test between two family cars built 20 years apart (a 1997 Rover 100 and a current Honda Jazz) underline major advances in vehicle safety, Thatcham Research, who conduct UK tests for Euro NCAP, estimates that advances driven by rigorous testing has helped deliver a 63 per cent reduction in car occupants killed and seriously injured, from 23,000 in 1997 to 8,500 in 2015.
Over the same period the number of pedestrians and cyclists killed or seriously injured has fallen by 40 per cent, from 14,500 in 1997 to 8,500 in 2015.
Demanding safety as standard
Thatcham Research is marking the 20th anniversary by urging consumers to further boost Britain’s road safety record by making a commitment to buy only models with a five star Euro NCAP rating and a collision avoidance technology like AEB and Lane Assist systems.They 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.Over 20 years, this would mean 54,000 fewer.
“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,” said Euro NCAP’s Secretary General, Michiel van Ratingen.
“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.”
Consumer outcry, manufacturers under scrutiny
Since 1997 Euro NCAP has assessed 629 different car models, resulting in nine out of 10 cars now sold in Europe holding an official Euro NCAP rating. 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.
Backed by the UK Government, the FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile) and the Swedish and Dutch Governments, the first Euro NCAP crash test results were revealed on February 4 1997. Until then car makers had to meet only basic legislative crash test requirements for new cars. They conducted their own crash tests but they were not standardised - and the results were not published. It was impossible for consumers to compare the safety of one car with another.
Euro NCAP’s programme turned these principles on their head. 1997 was the first time that realistic, like-for-like tests had been conducted by independent experts and the results sparked outrage from consumer groups, the public and the media.
“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.”
Major industry pushback
In the first test, of seven popular ‘super-mini’ sized cars, the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo each achieved three stars out of the then-maximum of four, based on protection levels offered to adult occupants.
The top-selling Rover 100 (formerly the ‘Metro’) achieved only one star while the Fiat Punto, Nissan Micra, Vauxhall Corsa and Renault Clio achieved only two stars. When pedestrian protection was assessed, no vehicle scored more than two points, suggesting that manufacturers were not designing front ends with vulnerable road users in mind.
Leading car manufacturers attacked the tests, claiming they were so severe that it was ‘impossible’ to achieve four stars. Five months later, however, Volvo’s S40 became the first four-star car for occupant protection. Manufacturers now compete to out-perform rivals in Euro NCAP tests - and regularly use the ratings in their advertisements.
Today, leading figures hailed the Euro NCAP tests as a major turning point in delivering safer cars.
Transport Minister Andrew Jones said:“We are proud to have been a founding member of the Euro NCAP which has proved to be a major turning point in car safety since 1997. It has continually pushed manufacturers to build ever safer cars and helped ensure we have some of the safest roads in the world - the numbers killed or seriously injured over the last twenty years has halved.”
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, Andrew Miller: “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.”
Edmund King OBE, AA President: “To my mind, the achievements of Euro NCAP in terms of saving lives are up there with the milestone safety improvements brought about by the seat belt and the breathalyser. To some extent it was a greater achievement, as the lives saved via Euro NCAP were not the result of new regulations or legislation but the results of determined individuals and organisations who were willing to take on the industry.”
Since 1997, Euro NCAP tests have become ever more demanding and cars can now achieve a maximum of five stars, awarded not just for how they protect occupants and pedestrians in a collision, but on the car’s ability to avoid a crash in the first place. The tests represent real-life accident scenarios that could result in the death or injury. Top achievers must demonstrate that their cars are fitted as standard with technology that avoids or mitigates such crashes and, where a crash is not avoidable, adequate protection is offered to car occupants and other road users.
New tests for 2018
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.
Thatcham Research is the independent voice of automotive safety & repair, advising motorists, insurers and vehicle manufacturers to help reduce accident frequency, severity and costs and to realise the vision of ‘Safer cars, fewer crashes’.
As well as its world leading crash and track research, Thatcham Research tests and accredits crash repair parts, vehicle repair technicians, and a number of other products and services within the collision repair industry for insurers, motor manufacturers, equipment manufacturers and suppliers.
A founder member of the international Research Council for Automobile Repairs (RCAR), Thatcham Research has also been a member of the European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) since 2004.