Car safety equipment: the key kit drivers want to be fitted as standard

Car safety equipment

Car safety equipment such as self-braking can stop cars crashing if the driver isn’t paying attention (Picture © Thatcham)

More than four out of five drivers want safety equipment such as automatic braking to be standard on new cars. And safety campaigners are urging drivers to buy only cars with it fitted as standard. They hope this will pressure car makers into fitting the tech more widely.

Currently, only one of Britain’s top 10 best-selling cars – the Mercedes-Benz C-Class – comes with automatic braking as part of its normal equipment. But research has found that when it’s an optional extra, car buyers ignore it. Instead they favour more tangible everyday kit such as sunroofs or upgraded sound systems. And according to studies, a fifth of car buyers refuse to pay extra for safety equipment.

Despite this, researchers for Stop the Crash found that 83 per cent of drivers actually want safety kit such as automatic braking to be standard. Chairman of Stop the Crash David Ward said: “This research shows how important safety is to the consumer. But it highlights how this often fails to translate into safety options being purchased in the showroom. Manufacturers must offer safety systems as standard with proven ability to save lives.”

What is automatic braking?

Also known as Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), safety experts describe the system to be as important as the seatbelt for saving lives. This can lead to a 38 per cent reduction in real-world rear-end crashes.

It achieves this by over-riding the driver and slamming on the brakes if its camera or radar detect an object that the car could crash into. AEB has been designed to reduce the effect of crashes or prevent them altogether. Experts estimate it has the potential to save 1100 lives and more than 120,000 casualties over the next 10 years.

What about other car safety equipment?

There are two more either radar or camera-based systems that campaigners believe could help cut the number of crashes. Lane Keep Assist, sometimes called Lane Departure Warning, employs windscreen cameras. These read the lines on the road and keep the car in its lane. The system then warns the driver if the car drifts out of its lane.

Meanwhile blind-spot detection looks out for traffic in the driver’s blind spot over the right shoulder. Mirrors don’t cover this area . If there’s another road user there, visual and audible warnings alert the driver.

Why is this tech necessary?

The roads are getting ever more crowded and cars are becoming ever more complex. It’s got to such a point that in the US, they actually hold Distracted Driver Awareness Month in April. This is designed to encourage drivers to pay more attention to the road. Research from UK insurer Direct Line backs this up. It found more than one in four drivers (28 per cent) have been involved in a collision with something they haven’t seen. This is because they haven’t been looking ahead properly or checked over their shoulder in their blind spot.

Direct Line says that three million drivers have hit either pedestrians or cyclists because they’ve taken their eyes off the road. And 39 per cent of drivers say they’ve narrowly avoided a collision with another vehicle because they haven’t been looking ahead or checked their blind spot.

Nick Reid, head of automotive technology at Direct Line, said: “‘I just didn’t see them’ is not a valid excuse for any collision. While nothing should replace driver vigilance, increased take-up of driver assistance technologies such as blind-spot detection, pedestrian and cyclist warning and automatic braking systems could help reduce the number of unnecessary accidents on our roads.”

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