Car safety – are you in the dark?

24 January, 2011

Paul Miller, manager, John Austin VW & Audi Specialists, has been taking a deeper look at car safety, with surprising results.

Road safety awareness has come a long way in recent times and whereas previously we may have bought a car because of its style, speed, functionality and perhaps even its pulling power,  now safety has become a major consideration when making that all important purchase. For this reason car manufacturers are constantly striving to improve their safety systems and come up with the latest innovations to get ahead of the pack.

Considering that it was a Volvo engineer who first invented the seat belt back in 1959 it is no wonder we’ve come to regard Volvo as synonymous with safety. For many years they have focused their marketing campaigns on the safety features of their cars and promoted themselves as making ‘the safest cars in the world’. However last year Toyota successfully took them to court and it was ruled that these claims were ‘misleading and lacked supporting evidence’. So have we been hoodwinked?

Let’s take a look at the evidence.  The most widely recognised safety testing is performed by Euro NCAP. They perform independent assessments of cars sold within Europe and award stars based on the safety of their performance in crash test situations.

In a press release Euro NCAP disclosed their top five overall achievers; Volvo didn’t put in an appearance until ‘joint 5th place’ receiving only three out of a potential five stars. Volvo was preceded by VW Golf, Honda Insight Hybrid, Toyota Prius, Hyundai i20. So it does seem that the public perception of Volvo may be somewhat misguided.

The tests cover all aspects of a car’s safety performance from frontal impact and side impact to child, driver and pedestrian protection. They are considered exhaustive by most; however some believe that other more unusual factors also come into play.

Believe it or not there have been several studies carried out worldwide to try to establish the safest colour car to drive! So does colour play a part in how safe a car is? Well according to the various experiments conducted it absolutely does.

It is apparent time and time again that silver is safest. In almost every study silver cars come out as least likely to be involved in an accident.  The reason for this (here’s the science bit) is because silver has highly reflective qualities and is not a colour that occurs naturally in the environment.  It therefore easily attracts our attention and stands out against the black roads or at night time, reducing its chances of being involved in a collision. The same can be said of white and other light coloured vehicles. Darker colours such as black, dark blue and bottle green cars are all thought to be at a greatly increased risk of being involved in more serious accidents.

It does appear that there is more to consider when buying a car than air bags and NCAP stars, although perhaps the most important safety feature is the one ‘behind’ the wheel.

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