When it comes to buying a car, one thing that cannot be overlooked or compromised is safety. There were 1,291 road fatalities in Australia in 2011i and it is estimated that someone in Australia and New Zealand is killed or seriously injured in a motor vehicle crash every fifteen minutesii. While road accidents can be put down to a number of factors, car safety features can reduce risk of fatality or injury in the event of a collisioniii.
Allianz and car safety and repair
The Allianz Zentrum für Technik (Allianz Centre for Technology) is an Allianz initiative that conducts work on active and passive vehicle safety in cars. Work by the centre just outside of Munich includes investigation into occupant and traffic safety as well as vehicle design for both injury prevention and ease of repair.
AZT also conducts tests such as the global Research Council for Automobile Repairs (RCAR) Bumper Test Protocol V2.0 and Low-speed structural crash test protocol. The bumper tests are one example of helping pinpoint how design can impact on the cost of repair and inconvenience to the driver. AZT tests using the Bumper Test Protocol indicate that repair costs can be two to three times higher in vehicles whose bumpers do not meet and absorb the impact energy appropriatelyiv.
Australia and the ANCAP rating
ANCAP, which stands for the Australasian New Car Assessment Program, is a vehicle safety testing program for vehicles available in Australia and New Zealand. The Federal Government supported programv is dedicated to informing consumers about the safety of vehicles on the marketvi. The key aim of the program is to have "safer drivers in safer cars on safer roads"vii.
Many people will be familiar with the ANCAP test dummy and the program's star ratings on new cars, but what paces are the cars and dummies actually put through and how does ANCAP determine how safe a car really is?
Safety testing in new cars: ANCAP safety ratings explained
To rate a car's safety, a vehicle with a dummy placed in the car is put through a number of standard crash tests in specialist laboratoriesiii. The crash test dummy simulates what happens to a driver or passenger in the car in the event of a crashviii. The dummies used in tests are sophisticated pieces of technology that collect data and give the testers an idea of how a person's body might be affected or injured in a car involved in a collisionviii.
ANCAP uses four internationally-recognised crash tests to determine the safety rating for vehicles: frontal offset, side impact, pedestrian, and poleviii. Each test simulates a real-world crash situation to analyse safety mechanism responses of the vehicle. At the end of the testing process, the car will be given an overall score out of 37 and a star safety ratingvi.
ANCAP-tested vehicles are awarded between 1 and 5 starsiii. Simply put, a higher score indicates a safer cariii. 5-stars are only given to vehicles with the highest level of safety possible. Since 2008, a five star rating can only be awarded if a car is equipped with Electronic Stability Control (ESC)vi. Additional points are given for the following features: seat belt reminders and pretensioners, Anti-lock Braking Systems (ABS) and airbagsix.
The car's performance results are published for consumers to look over and compare. ANCAP recommends "if it's not a 4 or 5 star vehicle - cross it off your list!"ix. It is a good idea to check out your next vehicle's results on the ANCAP website before you buy.
Safety features you should be looking for
Manufacturers are always looking for ways to improve the safety features - and rating - of their vehicles. ANCAP has highlighted a few key features that are particularly successful at making a car saferix. These are things that you should be looking for when buying a new car.
Structural Integrity will absorb and dissipate crash energy, minimise intrusion of external hazards into the passenger space, and prevent parts of the car (steering column, dash, roof pillars, pedals and floor panels) from moving excessively, which can injure passengersx. During a crash, doors remain closed but are able to be opened afterx.
Electronic Stability Control (ESC) helps drivers maintain optimum control over their vehicles by minimising a vehicle's chances of sliding out of control after making a sharp turn or on slippery road conditionsxi. Research conducted in Australia has shown that ESC can reduce the risk of single car crashes by 25% and single 4WD crashes by 51%xii. ESC is also known as Electronic Stability Program (ESP), Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), Active Stability Control (ASC) or Vehicle Stability Control (VSC)xi.
An Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) complements ESC and they work together to enhance a driver's control over the vehicle. ABS works by making sure the wheels of your vehicle don't lock up and skid when excessive pressure is applied to the brake pedalxiii.
According to ANCAP, a car featuring front, side, curtain, and knee airbags will offer maximum protectionxiv. In a crash, people and parts of the body may be flung into parts of the car, causing injury or death. Airbags are deployed to minimise the force of impact and are installed to protect specific parts of the body. Curtain airbags protect the head of a passenger and are particularly effective in a side impact crash against narrow objects like trees or polesxv.
Seat belts across the lap are less safe than three-point, sash-style seat beltsxvi. A sash belt with pretensioner technology (this tightens any slack in the belt webbingxvii) can further minimise the impact of a crash on the driver/passengers. A seat belt reminder is considered an additional safety feature in cars.
If you're thinking of buying a car, refer to ANCAP safety ratings first. Choosing a car with a five-star ANCAP rating and safety features listed above can reduce your risk of injury or fatality in the event of a crash. Always wear a seat belt when in a vehicle, stick to the road rules when driving and always drive with care. Take out car insurance with Allianz to secure your finances in the event of accident and damage to third party property.
i Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics, 2012, Road Deaths Australia: 2011 Statistical Summary, http://www.bitre.gov.au/publications/2012/files/RDA_Summary_2011.pdf, p.2
ii ANCAP, picture source, http://a6.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc7/396634_376049789076213_1459332611_n.jpg
iii ANCAP, 2010, Car Safety Ratings Explained, http://www.ancap.com.au/starratings
iv Allianz, AZT Bumper Test: Neuer Standard für Stoßfänger, https://azt.allianz.de/presse/presse_archiv/artikelliste-2010/azt_bumpertest.html
v Australian Government, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Media release: Federal Government Partnering With ANCAP for Car Safety, 7 June 2010, http://www.minister.infrastructure.gov.au/aa/releases/2010/June/AA382_2010.aspx
vi Transport Accident Commission, What is ANCAP?, http://www.howsafeisyourcar.com.au/Rating-Process/What-is-ANCAP/
vii ANCAP, 2010, About ANCAP, http://www.ancap.com.au/about
viii ANCAP, 2010, Crash Testing Explained, http://www.ancap.com.au/crashtesting
ix ANCAP, Understanding Car Safety Features, http://ancap.com.au/safetyfeatures
x ANCAP, Understanding Car Safety Features: Structural Integrity, http://ancap.com.au/safetyfeatures
xi ANCAP, Understanding Car Safety Features: Electronic Stability Control, http://ancap.com.au/safetyfeatures
xii Transport Accident Commission, Electronic Stability Control, http://www.howsafeisyourcar.com.au/Electronic-Stability-Control/
xiii ANCAP, Understanding Car Safety Features: Anti-lock Braking System, http://ancap.com.au/safetyfeatures
xiv ANCAP, Understanding Car Safety Features: Airbags, http://ancap.com.au/safetyfeatures
xv Transport Accident Commission, Curtain Airbags, http://www.howsafeisyourcar.com.au/Curtain-Airbags/
xvi ANCAP, Understanding Car Safety Features: Seat Belts, http://ancap.com.au/safetyfeatures
xvii Harris, T., How Seatbelts work, howstuffworks, http://auto.howstuffworks.com/car-driving-safety/safety-regulatory-devices/seatbelt4.htm