Colin-on-Cars – Safety standards still too low

In-car safety is not being pursued as aggressively as it could be according to the latest findings of the 2020 Automobile Association (AA) Entry-Level Vehicle Safety Report (ELVS) although some improvements in entry-level vehicles have been made.

The 2020 ELVS Report follows the same desktop research methodology as in previous years with the only difference this year being the value of entry-level vehicles which has been raised to R200 000. The 27 vehicles reviewed for the 2020 ELVS Report are assessed for safety features stated in written literature of the vehicles. The Report does not consider the structural integrity of the driver/passenger compartment.

Two important figures provide context for the development of the ELVS: South Africa’s high annual road fatality figures, and the growing vehicle population in the country. In 2019, the country recorded 12 503 road deaths. The current vehicle population in the country – according to official figures from the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) – is 11 267 812, with just more than 7,3-million of these being motor vehicles.

“The large vehicle population and high road fatality figure point to a need for extensive road safety education and the need for better road safety management in the country. They also point to a need for consumers to prioritise safety in the vehicles they purchase. The ELVS Report should serve as a basis for their research,” the AA says.

The 27 vehicles surveyed for the 2020 instalment of the Entry-Level Vehicle Safety Report were evaluated against the number of active safety features they have (anti-lock braking systems, electronic stability control), and passive safety features (crash bags).

Points are awarded to vehicles for the existence of each of the active and passive safety features. Additional points are awarded to vehicles crash tested under the NCAP system, in this case Global NCAP’s #SaferCarsforAfrica programme. Twelve vehicles available in South Africa have so far been tested under this system.

The 27 vehicles are categorised into three groups based on their safety ratings. These categories are: Acceptable Safety, Moderate Safety, and Poor Safety.

However, the Association says it is encouraging that 26 of the 27 vehicles are equipped with anti-lock braking systems (ABS) and that 26 vehicles have front driver and passenger crash bags. The least common safety feature was curtain crash bags (only one vehicle) and side crash bags (only three vehicles).

In 2019, the AA supported the #StopTheCrash partnership to demonstrate the effectiveness of, amongst other technologies, ESC and ABS. The technologies which were showcased have the potential to save thousands of lives every year, and the United Nations has developed international standards to help encourage countries around the world mandate these life-saving technologies.

“We repeat the call we made then for the government to urgently review current minimum standards which are simply not good enough and to press for the mandatory inclusion of these technologies in all vehicles, including those at the entry-level,” says the AA.

“A significant finding of this year’s report is that only three of the vehicles are equipped with Electronic Stability Control. This is particularly concerning as ESC is a proven technology which can reduce road crashes. It’s astonishing and discouraging that so few vehicles come equipped with this technology as standard for entry-level vehicles,” notes the AA.

The Association further notes when considering that the annual cost of crashes in South Africa which is estimated at around R163-billion by the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), the inclusion of this technology should be standard practice not only from a life-saving perspective, but also from an economic perspective.

In terms of true safety points attained, points of 20 or less are considered as having ‘poor’ safety. Safety points between 20 and 50 can be considered as having ‘moderate’ safety, and safety points of 50 and above can be considered as having ‘acceptable’ safety.

In 2020, seven vehicles fall under the ‘poor safety’ category, 16 vehicles fall under the ‘moderate safety’ category, and ten vehicles fall under the ‘acceptable’ category. It should be noted that these figures are an improvement on 2019’s ratings where four vehicles fell under the ‘poor safety’ category, 16 vehicles fell under the ‘moderate safety’ category, and seven vehicles fell under the ‘acceptable’ category.

Toyota (2 cars), Volkswagen (1 car), Kia (1 car), Honda (1 car) and Peugeot (1 car) had all their entry-level vehicles score within the acceptable range. The Suzuki Ignis also scored in the acceptable safety range while the Suzuki Super Carry scored in the poor safety range. The Datsun Go+ Mid also scored in the acceptable safety range but only scored one star rating in the #SaferCarsforAfrica crash tests in 2018.

The Peugeot 108 received the highest safety rating of 110 points. The Peugeot 108 was the only entry-level vehicle to include a curtain crash bag, and it was also the only vehicle to include all safety features considered in this report. The vehicle would probably have obtained a higher score had it been crash tested and the AA therefore recommends that all manufacturers crash test their vehicles. These tests will not only improve the safety results of the cars but will also provide authoritative demonstrations of the vehicles’ safety levels.

Note: The AA notes this is desktop research and the definitive measure of a vehicle’s safety can be acquired only through crash testing. Similar to the Datsun Go+, the Nissan NP300 would have scored highly in this research but it scored zero stars in the Global NCAP crash testing. The data presented here should be used as an indication of a vehicle’s safety equipment and not as the sole indicator of the vehicle’s overall safety rating.

Safety/Affordability Index

In addition to scoring the vehicles purely on safety features, the ELVS Report also considers safety weighed against affordability. In this scenario, the score achieved by a vehicle for its safety features is measured against its cost to arrive at a Safety/Affordability Score. The Index can be used as a guide to understand the ‘Affordability of Safety’ proposition of vehicles.

For this report, a score of four points and above can be seen as ‘acceptable safety/affordability’, a score between three and 3,99 points can be seen as ‘moderate safety/affordability’, whereas 2,99 points and below can be seen as ‘poor safety/affordability’.

In 2020, two vehicles fall under the ‘acceptable safety/affordability’ category, 15 vehicles fall under the ‘moderate safety/affordability’ category, and ten vehicles fall under the ‘poor safety/affordability’ categories.

These figures show a decrease compared to 2019’s results, where four vehicles fell under the ‘acceptable safety/affordability’ category, 15 vehicles fell under the ‘moderate safety/affordability’ category, and eight vehicles fell under the ‘poor safety/affordability’ category.

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