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S - Safety

05 June 2006
car crash

Safety - Unless you're a deep-sea diver or a firefighter, driving a car is the most dangerous thing you will do day-to-day.

Ten people are killed in road accidents every day, and thousands more are injured. Although the UK's overall total of 3500 deaths a year might look good compared with the figures for other European countries, our child fatality rates are among the worst.

The Government wants to cut adult deaths by 40% and child fatalities by 50% by the end of its 10-Year Transport Plan in 2010. Car design is playing its part and has come on in leaps and bounds in its ability to protect occupants of a car in an accident.

The Euro NCAP crash test assessment programme deserves a great deal of credit for encouraging car manufacturers to improve the safety of their designs with such features as airbags, anti-lock brakes and traction control systems.

The ability of cars to protect pedestrians has enjoyed less success, but this is improving steadily. Jaguar's XK model has a pyrotechnic pop-up bonnet, which cushions pedestrians from the full force of the bow in a collision. Honda and Citroen also have similar systems.

whatcar.com publishes the full Euro NCAP reports as soon as they are released, and What Car? also lists the results in the back of the magazine each month.

The vast majority of deaths and injuries on the UK's roads are down to human error. In response to this, the Government is considering a series of measures to improve the skills and awareness of new drivers, who are most at risk of being in or being the cause of an accident.

Other planned safety campaigns aim to highlight the dangers of driving while tired, using a mobile phone at the wheel or consuming drink or drugs before taking to the roads. (See Airbags, ABS, and Traction control).

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