Car manufacturers gear up for safety award

09.00 | 10 January 2019 | | 8 comments

The shortlist for the What Car Safety Award 2019 has been unveiled – with Audi and Volvo leading the way with two nominations each.

Presented annually in association with Thatcham Research, the accolade aims to increase awareness of the safest new cars.

This year, in addition to a five-star Euro NCAP rating, the 10 shortlisted cars have also been selected based on their performance in new Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) tests – introduced to address the rising numbers of collision involving cyclists and pedestrians.

The judging panel also assessed the cars on the level of protection offered to driver, front passenger and rear-seated child passengers in the event of a crash.

Other factors considered include the availability of Adaptive Cruise Control, Speed Recognition and Control, and Steering Support – described by Thatcham as ‘the first step towards vehicle automation’.

The 10 cars nominated for the What Car? Safety Award are:

  • Audi A6
  • Audi Q3
  • Ford Focus
  • Jaguar I-Pace
  • Lexus ES
  • Mercedes-Benz A-Class
  • Nissan Leaf
  • Peugeot 508
  • Volvo V60/S60
  • Volvo XC40

Matthew Avery, What Car? Safety Award judge and director of research at Thatcham Research, said: “We raised the bar in safety testing for 2018, which means the 10 cars in this longlist are some of the safest ever made, anywhere in the world.

“The progression we have seen in car safety technology, in terms of performance and availability, is tremendously exciting.

“The carmakers in contention for this award should be proud of the positive impact their vehicles will have on UK road safety.”

The winner will be announced on 22 January.



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    Coming in to Nigel’s contribution. My own particular grievance with road safety and one which is well known is Tailgating. I believe that there are already devices that constantly meter the safe following on distances between vehicle. These devices perhaps giving out a severe warning or better still actually moderate the vehicles if it’s in say cruise mode or even in direct drive then to my mind and providing that the distance is a sufficient one then it could be a very good idea and it would or could stop the multiple pile ups that occur and the carnage that we nowadays suffer on our roads.

    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Beware of unintended consequences of safety devices. For example the drivers who drive and brake in such a manner as to see how often they can get the ABS to kick in on a journey. Next time out they are going to try to beat their “record”….
    Obviously most often done in company cars where they themselves are not paying for the wear and tear on the tyres or vehicle.

    Pat, Wales
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Interesting presentation from Thatcham’s Dave Baldwin at RSGB’s Brighton conference on this subject. Can be seen at
    Worth looking at?

    Nick Hughes, Preston
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    Generally agree with Nigel’s comment, although I would say that ABS comes into its own on ice and snow – the problem is probably too many drivers don’t understand it or know what to do if it activates in slippery conditions.

    In the dry however, if the ABS is activated, as Nigel says, you were going too fast to be able to stop in control.

    Hugh Jones
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    Oh dear, I think this is a soapbox moment for me. As and when fully autonomous vehicles are the norm, and then probably only in metropolises and key roads, such as motorways, then all well and good. I don’t think that a farmer tending his flocks, for example, is going to be on one. And, I think the general likelihood of such vehicles existing on rural roads is equally unlikely.
    In the meantime, manufacturers seeking to impress the average punter with all sort of automatic or so-called safety features. The latter are generally misnomers. In my view most of them should be called Damage Limitation Devices. Anything involved in safety, at least in my book, involves avoiding the crash in the first place and the prime device for that is the human being, albeit it once it is properly programmed.
    Otherwise most of the gizmos now fitted to vehicles merely enable less attention to be paid where it should be paid to help ensure safety. Ultimately, there really is no substitute for a fully engaged brain and the Mk1 eyeball. 98% crashes are said to be driver error and the error is primarily in the mindset – in reality that is the source of many crashes because of basic stupidity and inattentiveness. And the general mindset is one of non-accountability and increasingly relying on so-called devices which are marketed to keep the occupant safe. Such devices, whatever they might be, would not have, for example, saved 7 people from being burned to death in the 2011 M5 crash at Taunton. Nor, in the same scenario very unlikely to have avoided 26 vehicles piling into one another. Drivers being properly alert would probably have saved much of that carnage.
    So I think manufacturers should accept some responsibility for deluding people into believing that their driving is going to be safer because this or that gizmo is fitted on the vehicle when all it generally does is lead to less attention to the job in hand. I remember talking with a former Devizes Police Driving Instructor who was then the Chief Constable’s driver at Devon and Cornwall. That day I saw him in town he was waiting for his boss to come out of a meeting. He was standing by the brand new Ford Granada 2.8 fitted with this brand new safety feature called ABS. I asked John (not his real name) what he thought of it. He said, ‘If you need it you are doing it wrong’. In my view that is as true today as it was then.

    Nigel ALBRIGHT
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    I still see new and nearly new cars/vans/pick-ups fitted with chrome tube type bull-bars up front. Unless they are certified as EU compliant, (and most after-market ones are not), these bull-bars are illegal and have been since 2007.
    How safe can a car be when pedestrians involved in a collision with a vehicle fitted with a bull-bar can still be entangled in these mostly illegal fittings and come off with even worse injuries?

    Pat, Wales
    Agree (10) | Disagree (0)

    It does seem contradictory to award safety awards to cars that are capable of acceleration and speeds which are neither necessary nor controlable by some of the people that drive them. It’s like firearms being given safety ratings.

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (7) | Disagree (9)

    With every one of those manufacturers refusing to be transparent about the emissions of their fossil fuel vehicles how can any of them be given an award for safety?

    The manufacturers know the emissions of every one of their models under various speeds and loads, both in the lab and in the real world. They keep it from the public because they know that it would be detrimental to their popularity, support and sales.

    Then throw in the obesity epidemic and all the marketing by those same companies to de-activate travel and you can see that avoiding collisions is just the tip of a very large iceberg (or should I say “fatberg”)

    Its rather like the tobacco companies choosing the “safest cigarette” based on the number of people burning their fingers whilst smoking.

    Rod King, Warrington
    Agree (9) | Disagree (12)

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