24th August 2017

The latest car safety technologies being made legally mandatory would be a hugely positive step forward

With the trickle-down effect from Formula One, growing pressure from diverse voices, public expectation and indeed regulatory law, vehicles are thankfully continuously being made safer, protecting road users and pedestrians alike.

Over 1,700 people were killed in British road collisions in 2015 and we wholeheartedly agree with Volvo’s Vision 20201 and Continental’s Vision Zero2 strategies, for example, that strive to make road fatalities a thing of the past.

It’s quite surprising to learn that legal vehicle standards haven’t been officially updated in Europe since 2009, when so many of today’s advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) were unheard of or still being developed by automotive R&D teams.

A few days ago, a coalition of organisations including bodies such as Brake, the Association of Car Fleet Operators (ACFO), RoadPeace and the Chartered Institute of Highways and Transportation, sent a letter3 to Roads Minister Jesse Norman MP. In it, they urged the government to robustly support mooted European legislative moves to make all of the 19 safety technologies under discussion mandatory during 2018.

The complete list of 19 vehicular safety systems being considered for compulsory fitment to new cars, vans and/or buses and lorries in Europe are listed in the EC report from 2016 entitled ‘Saving lives: boosting car safety in the EU’4 as follows:

  • automatic emergency braking (AEB)
  • intelligent speed adaptation
  • lane keep assistance
  • driver drowsiness and distraction monitoring
  • emergency braking display (flashing stop lamps)
  • seat belt reminder
  • frontal crash testing
  • side crash testing
  • rear crash testing
  • alcohol interlock device interface standardisation
  • crash event data recorder
  • tyre pressure monitoring
  • front-end design and direct vision
  • truck and trailer rear underrun protection (rear bumper)
  • lateral protection (side guards)
  • fire safety for buses
  • head impact protection on A-pillars and front windscreen
  • reversing (backing up) detection of persons behind vehicles
  • pedestrian and cyclist detection

Trak Global Group includes Carrot Insurance, a young and newly-qualified motor insurance broker that regularly communicates road safety information online and in other media, and we share the sentiments of Brake’s CEO Mary Williams, who commented:

“These improved minimum vehicle safety standards, along with better investigation of the causes of crashes and injuries, are crucial to ensure the effective delivery of the ‘safe system’ approach adopted by Britain, driving towards the ultimate target of zero deaths on our roads.”

In the consortium’s Position Paper, its members call for as many active and passive safety technologies to be required to be fitted to new vehicles in the EC and most definitely also here in the UK regardless of our Brexit status now and in the future. They also call for more rigorous crash testing to be enforced and for legislation to be updated within a short timeframe, bearing in mind lives are at stake.

Strides in camera and sensor technology have already led to many car manufacturers introducing ADAS on diverse models across their ranges, and it’s heart-warming to discover each year’s new set of Euro NCAP scores, which show that even the smaller and more mainstream cars are increasingly being standard-fitted with advanced safety systems. Take the latest Honda Jazz, SEAT Ibiza, Kia Niro and VW Tiguan, for example, which all boast stellar safety scores across all areas5.

Although there’s a slight risk that the standardisation of a plethora of semi-autonomous safety systems like AEB and lane keeping assist might reduce the level of human skill out there on the road and make some drivers somewhat blasé, it’s unarguably imperative that European and UK legislators act quickly in this slightly odd period of history before driverless vehicles then become the norm. We’re certainly hoping that the EC enshrines all 19 safety steps in law for new cars, vans and, where applicable, larger vehicles – and we certainly agree with calls to ensure the UK mirrors or perhaps even surpasses Europe in this regard.