Thousands of lives saved on the roads thanks to 20 years of crash-testing
THE Euro Ncap crash safety test marks its 20th birthday this month, with the organisation saying that its work has helped saved more than 78,000 lives.
Its first tests exposed just how dangerous top-selling cars of the 1990s were - look at the pictures showing how the Rover 100 of 1997 fares compares to the similarly sized Honda Jazz of 2017 - but now airbags, electronic stability control and automatic braking systems are commonplace on cars sold in Europe.
Since its first batch of tests - the Renault Clio, Nissan Micra and Vauxhall Corsa were among the other cars tested with the small Rover - Euro Ncap has published more than 630 safety ratings, crash-tested 1,800 cars and collectively spent more than €160 million on crash testing to make cars safer.
"We are very proud, as we mark 20 years at the forefront of road safety, that Euro Ncap's programme of safety tests has achieved major life-saving improvements in cars and has helped Europe reach the lowest road fatality rate for any region in the world," said Michiel van Ratingen, Euro Ncap's secretary general.
"Euro Ncap has given millions of consumers the knowledge and confidence to choose the safest cars possible.
"Recent years have shown a slowdown in the progress rate, however, so we mustn't take our foot off the gas.
"We want to ensure that Europe's roads get even safer in the next 20 years, not just for car occupants but for all participants in traffic.
"We already test many more aspects of a car's safety than we did when we started in 1997, and that is set to continue.
"Next year, we will test systems that recognise and avoid crashes with cyclists, and we're lining up a very challenging roadmap for 2020 to 2025."
The first Euro Ncap test results were published on February 4 1997, with the scheme backed by the FIA (Federation Internationale de l'Automobile), International Consumer Research and Testing and the British and Swedish governments.
Until that point, car makers only had to meet basic legislative crash test requirements for new vehicles.
The results of these tests were not published, making it impossible for consumers to compare the safety of one car with another.
Euro Ncap's programme was the first time that realistic, like-for-like tests had been conducted in Europe by independent experts, and the results sparked outrage from consumer groups, members of the public and the media.
Max Mosley, the first chairman of Euro Ncap, said: "Twenty years on from what started as a controversial programme, rejected by manufacturers, and supposedly aiming for unrealistic safety standards, Euro Ncap is now firmly part of the automotive mainstream.
"Thousands of fatalities have been prevented, consumer demand for safety is high, manufacturers compete on safety rating results, and vehicle safety standards continue to improve."
Andrew Miller, Euro Ncap president and chief technical officer of Thatcham, the British motor insurance industry's research body, said that the impact of the crash tests over the years could not be overstated.
"Until Euro Ncap, consumers only had the manufacturers' word for it," he said.
"Now we have the safest cars ever and the safety levels of each car are there for all to see.
"This success could only be achieved by actively working together in Europe under one umbrella and by continuing to invest in better safety."
The tests have become increasingly demanding and cars can now achieve a maximum of five stars, awarded not just for how they protect occupants and pedestrians in a collision, but on the car's ability to avoid a crash in the first place.
The tests represent real-life accident scenarios that could result in the death or injury. Top achievers must demonstrate that their cars are fitted as standard with technology that avoids or mitigates such crashes and, where a crash is not avoidable, adequate protection is offered to car occupants and other road users.
The latest refinement to the test is to offer a so-called dual rating: one which relates to the standard car, and a second which demonstrates the effect of optional safety equipment.
In order to give readers the most helpful information, Irish News Drive road test reports give, where possible, a car's percentage score in the four key areas on which Euro Ncap bases its star rating: adult occupant safety; child occupant safety; pedestrian safety; and safety assist technology.
We also indicate in which year a car was tested and whether it has a dual rating.