Autonomous emergency braking concept. Credit: Alamy

Peter Vosper: Britain behind in enforcing safety benefits in cars

Torbay Weekly

From July 6, autonomous emergency braking (AEB) will become a compulsory fitting requirement on all new vehicles in Europe and Northern Ireland – but there are no plans to implement it in Great Britain.

The safety technology, which automatically slows down or stops a vehicle if its driver fails to respond to the threat of a collision, could save over 100 lives per year.

It would also prevent a further 12,300 casualties on Britain’s roads, according to Thatcham Research, the motor insurance industry’s research centre.

Matthew Avery, director of research at Thatcham said AEB reduces rear-end collisions by about 40 per cent, and collisions with pedestrians by 30 to 40 per cent.

Even when the braking system is unable to stop a crash from occurring, it can reduce speed and therefore the severity of the impact.

Emergency braking has been mandatory on most newly registered heavy goods vehicles over 7.5 tonnes since November, 2015, but few vans have it fitted and a significant number do not offer it as an option.

Most new models sold in the past two years include AEB as standard but the concern is unless automatic braking is mandated manufacturers will put less safe vehicles on to the UK market to cut the cost.

Britain’s cheapest new car, the Dacia Sandero, was named 2021 Car of the Year by What Car but lost its title after Euro NCAP gave it a two-star rating for only having a basic version of AEB.

It reacts to other vehicles but is not designed to prevent collisions with pedestrians or cyclists.

Many motorists are not using some of the new technology available because they are unaware of how to use their cars’ full range of capabilities.

Most dealerships are very good and will take time to explain and teach customers about what they are buying so ensure this happens on delivery of your new vehicle.

Adaptive cruise control, fitted to almost a third of cars, helps drivers to keep a safe distance from the car in front thanks to laser or radar but only a third of those who have it ever use it.

Less than a third who have speed limiters use them.

A group of six former transport ministers, which includes Peter Bottomley and Norman Baker, have written to Grant Shapps, the current Transport Secretary, urging him to mandate a package of 15 car safety features which they say could prevent more than 1,700 deaths and 15,000 serious injuries by 2037.

This would also take a lot of pressure and time from the NHS and the police, allowing them to deal with other issues.

It is not easy for motorists to quickly adapt to the touchscreen controls that have replaced dials and switches and there is also a concern that having to use these while driving is more dangerous than a mobile phone.

Whether we like it or not, there will be more controls but if it makes the roads a safer place to be we will all benefit.