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Europe's car safety framework needs 'overhaul', says ETSC

In its report, the ETSC says that new data shows only around half of new vehicles sold in 2013 had been awarded five stars by Euro NCAP during the 2010-13 testing cycle.

It added that car occupants have also benefitted more than other road users from safety improvements according to ETSC, as cars have generally performed worse on pedestrian protection criteria than on adult or child occupant protection. In response the ETSC is calling for vulnerable road users to also benefit from tighter vehicle safety standards through higher minimum standards for pedestrian protection from both regulators and from Euro NCAP. 

The report also suggests that green vehicle tax shifts in countries including Denmark and the Netherlands had failed to take account of safety, leading to higher sales of cars with lower safety ratings. In response, the ETSC advises countries to offer tax incentives only to ‘clean and safe’ vehicles.

According to the ETSC, the main block to faster progress on safety is that legally-mandated safety standards are years out of date. A car that only meets the current minimum safety standards in the EU would receive a zero-star rating today from Euro NCAP according to the report. Euro NCAP only tests a selection of vehicles each year, and also does not test every variant of each model.

Antonio Avenoso, executive director of the European Transport Safety Council, said: “While Europe is still a leader in vehicle safety, this report shows that the benefits are far from being equally spread. We need an overhaul of vehicle safety in the EU to ensure that the latest advances benefit the many not the few. The starting point must be bringing today’s regulatory tests and required standard equipment bang up to date.

“In the past, it has taken 20 years for technologies such as Electronic Stability Control (ESC) to be made mandatory. This should not be allowed to happen again with the new generation of lifesaving tech such as Automated Emergency Braking, Intelligent Speed Assistance and passenger Seat Belt Reminders.”

The EU is set to revise vehicle safety standards, as well as the vehicle ‘type approval’ process over the coming year. The ETSC is calling for a range of vehicle technologies including Intelligent Speed Assistance, Advanced Seat Belt Reminders and Automated Emergency Braking, to be made standard equipment and for mandatory crash tests to be upgraded to match the current Euro NCAP tests.

ETSC also says more work needs to be done to compare real world collision outcomes to laboratory crash test results. While the report found that several studies have found a correlation, on average, between higher Euro NCAP ratings, and a reduced chance of death or serious injury, the relationship is not true in all cases.

The ETSC is calling for an open EU database of collision investigation information that could be funded by a nominal contribution on the cost of every vehicle sold. 

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day.