Drivers choosing gadgets over safety features

12.00 | 8 April 2016 | | 4 comments

Nearly four times as many new car buyers choose connectivity gadgets over safety upgrades when specifying their vehicle, according to new research from

The research, published on 6 April, reveals that six in 10 buyers do not choose to upgrade their new car with any safety features.

Of the safety systems selected, automated emergency braking (AEB) is the most popular, but even then less than 20% of drivers choose it as an option.

In contrast, 64% spend extra cash to set up sat-nav and half of all drivers upgrade to a DAB radio – which Whatcar says comes at a cost similar to the £200 estimated to install AEB.

The research also suggests that comfort and styling also rank higher than safety items for new car buyers, including features like heated seats (60%) and alloy wheels (42%).

Whatcar says ‘despite the nation’s apparent preoccupation with road safety, drivers are shelling out for items like satellite navigation, digital radio and Bluetooth capability rather than safety systems such as lane-keeping assistance and blindspot monitoring’.

Jim Holder, editorial director of, said: “When it comes to talking about what’s important in a car, most people are vociferous about how vital safety is. However, it seems to be a different matter when new car buyers are sat in front of the salesman.

“British car buyers are clearly going for style over substance.

“It’s beneficial to have creature comforts in your car, especially if you spend a lot of time driving. But it’s quite shocking to think that features which could save people’s lives are taking a back seat to having the right sound quality on the radio, especially when those items often cost around the same as the safety options.”



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    Several thoughts on this:
    – employers who hire cars/fleets should be investing in affordable extras for their staff
    – I suspect that the car salespeople do not have a great bonus incentive for these things (is the incentive loaded towards getting a car sale rather than extras)
    – it should in my view be a legal requirement for information to be provided and for the buyer to sign-off on the safety features he/she does not wish to buy after reading the benefits case. This is an easy ask of government and explaining these features is no more than a 5 minute job.

    Peter , Merseyside
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    I don’t think it’s a fair conclusion to make. Most people would assume the vehicle they’re contemplating is essentially already ‘safe’ and there would be no necessity to add to its essential and mandatory safety features, unless they happen to believe that they are the worst driver on the road of course and a collision is therefore inevitable. The rest of us see the car as something we’ll be driving around in for years to come and not for something to crash with, so top of the list would understandably be comfort, convenience and ease of driving etc. (Good to see more automatics being specified though, according to the survey)

    Hugh Jones
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    Surely this just reinforces that safety features should be fitted as standard, not as optional extras?

    The questionnaire used, only talked about options not standard equipment – would be interesting to know how many of the vehicles actually had AEB etc. as standard equipment for the model chosen?

    Matt Staton, Cambridgeshire
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    The basic safety threshold of cars seems to improve every year, for example anti lock braking systems didn’t exist when I started driving, then they were optional on top-end cars, before eventually becoming the norm. Drivers who have managed vehicles with lesser safety specifications for decades can be forgiven for thinking the relatively high level of safety features provided as standard on today’s new models are “enough”.

    Pat, Wales
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