Cars from just 20 years ago have bad safety

These days when it comes to car safety we look for certain features in new cars that probably weren’t around 20 years ago.

Car technology has improved considerably over the last two decades, to the extent that a new car with a 5 star rating may save your life or at least prevent more serious injury if you’re involved in a potentially fatal car crash.

Recently the Europe New Car Assessment Program (Euro NCAP) did a special demonstration to mark their 20 year anniversary and to demonstrate just how much car safety has improved since 1997.

The two cars involved in the test were a 1997 Rover 100 and a 2017 Honda Jazz, which were  driven into a metal barrier at around 65 kph to simulate a head on collision. The results of the were quite eye opening.

Although it has airbags the Rover’s passengers don’t fare too well with poor restraints causing their limbs to fly around, the engine impacts the driver’s legs and doors of the car buckle and twist. When the Rover was first tested in 1997 it gained a 1 star safety rating and was withdrawn from the market soon after.

On the other hand, the Honda is a completely different story with front and side curtain airbags cocooning the passengers so they are well restrained and cushioned from the blow. The crumple zone for the engine is also much better, the impact stopping at the windscreen. The likelihood of these passengers escaping serious injury is significantly higher.

The crash test is an interesting one because it shows just how far car safety has come. According to the organisation’s first chairman, Max Mosley, the existence of Euro NCAP has prevented “thousands of fatalities” since car testing started. Today 9 out of 10 cars sold on the European market hold a Euro NCAP rating and manufacturers continually look to improve safety requirements to get top ratings for new vehicles.

But while upgrading crumple zones, structural integrity and adding airbags can improve car safety to a great extent, it’s the autonomous features that are helping new cars to get top ratings. This is because ultimately it’s not the cars themselves that cause a crash, it’s the people in them who make mistakes. Technologies such as automatic braking systems, auto steering and self-driving capabilities will go a long way to minimise driver deaths in the future, and maybe eventually eliminate the need for crash testing altogether.