Safer car design has cut road casualties

29 November 2005 #SMMT News

Road casualties have fallen dramatically in 10 years, thanks to improvements in new car design. That was the message delivered in Brussels today by transport minister, Dr Stephen Ladyman MP at a conference to celebrate 10 years of independent crash test body EuroNCAP.

‘Car makers deserve real credit for dramatic improvements in safety trends over the last 10 years.’, he said. He added that EuroNCAP might extend its role beyond crash tests to communicate abuse of safety rules and highlighted the case of the Landwind, a Chinese import into the EU.

The SUV was imported via Germany, but was not subject to the strict safety rules and crash tests applied to other 4×4 vehicles on the market. Instead, the importer used procedures intended for low volume car makers.

Following import, crash tests were carried out by German safety body ADAC. The results were poor, showing basic shortcomings in areas such as a lack of a collapsible steering column. In the footage, the column can be seen moving forward and upward, striking the driver’s head before breaking through the vehicle roof.

While Dr Ladyman said that the EU must maintain Single Vehicle Approval (SVA), to support niche manufacturers like specialist sport car makers in the UK, he described the Landwind situation as ‘totally unacceptable’.

Mr Ari Vatanen, road safety rapporteur in the European Parliament, added his support for the minister’s comments. He described the Landwind case as a loophole that must be closed. He said that volume manufacturers must not be allowed to bring vehicles to the European market under ‘low volume’ rules, side-stepping the legislative requirement for crash testing.

Dr Sergio Marchionne, chief executive of the European automobile manufacturers’ association ACEA also spoke at the event. He praised the role of EuroNCAP in driving safety improvements in new car design, but sounded a note of caution about too much focus on the car and too little in other areas of road safety.

Dr Marchionne called for an integrated approach in the drive to reduce casualties further. This would look to other key factors central to road safety improvements, including better road design, driver training, education and enforcement, he said.

As well as hosting a range of high profile, international speakers, EuroNCAP revealed the results of a consumer survey, looking at how safety factors feature on the new car buyers’ agenda.

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