Reading your owner”s manual could save your life

07 November 2005 #SMMT News

This week, 7-13 November, is Road Safety Week and the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders has called for car owners to take the time to read their owner’s manual. The advice comes following an SMMT survey which showed that motorists continue to take risks because they don’t fully understand the safety systems in their cars1.

Although roads are becoming safer2, there are still over 3,000 deaths each year. Many could be prevented if drivers take simple precautions like understanding what warning symbols mean, regularly checking tyre pressures, adjusting head restraints and ensuring that child seats are properly fitted.

SMMT chief executive, Christopher Macgowan commented, ‘We read instructions when taking new medicines or using a power tool because these are safety critical products. However, most of us fail to adopt the same vigilant approach when it comes to cars. Many accidents and injuries could be prevented if drivers spent more time learning about the features which are designed to protect themselves and their families.’

Check tyre pressure

Incorrectly inflated tyres affect handling, steering, braking and grip; they can also increase wear by up to 30 per cent. Yet a recent NOP survey found that seven per cent of drivers check their tyre pressure only once a year. The RAC Foundation also revealed that 90 per cent of tyres in the UK are incorrectly pressured_. Correct tyre pressures are included in owner’s manuals and on vehicle door frames.

Adjust head restraints

A properly adjusted head restraint helps reduce or avoid neck injuries in a collision. According to the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) whiplash affects 70 per cent of people injured in accidents4. This could be avoided by making simple adjustments to the position of head restraints – again, as directed in the manual supplied with the car.

Fit child seats properly

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) reports that 70 per cent of child seats are incorrectly fitted or used5. According to THINK!, the DfT road safety campaign, 90 per cent of child fatalities in road collisions could be avoided if children were correctly strapped-in6. These figures would fall significantly if motorists were to read the instructions supplied with the child seat.


1. The survey, which sampled 110 people in central London, showed that:

  • 58 per cent of those asked could not name any active safety systems in a modern car.
  • Only 29 per cent named ABS, even though this is now standard on all new cars.
  • Just five per cent of drivers knew about ESP (electronic stability programme).
  • Six per cent of people were unable to name any active or passive safety feature.

2. Total deaths on the road have fallen from 3,650 in 1994 to 3,221 in 2004. Pedestrian fatalities have fallen from 1,124 to 671 in the same period.





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