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From next month, Euro NCAP's new crash test guidelines will encourage even safer cars.
For more than a decade, the European New Car Assessment Programme — better known as Euro NCAP — has been promoting safer cars by naming those that stand up well in crash tests and shaming the comparative few that don't. Over time, its remit has grown so that child occupant, side impact and even pedestrian protection are considerations. The fact that every car now has airbags, door beams and anti-lock brakes is testament to the influence of NCAP. Cars are even starting to look different in order to meet the pedestrian impact requirements.
Even so, shrewd manufacturers know how to design a car to earn the maximum five-star occupant protection rating. NCAP had become a bit like a sports team that plays only one way: the opposition had learned how to neutralise it. From next month, though, that will change.
A new set of tests is being introduced to take into account what NCAP calls ‘safety assist systems' — in particular, stability control to reduce the risk of skidding — and it will be impossible for a car to get a five-star rating unless this is ‘standard in the majority of variants sold'.
Other active protection features, such as cruise control that prevents you running into the car in front, will also be taken into account. Whiplash protection will now be part of the assessment, too. At the end of it all, a car will be given just one overall star rating, rather than several different scores as now.
This is all dear to our hearts. Ever since the cost of stability control started to tumble, we've argued that it should be standard on every car. That may now happen. We have introduced it to readers who, having tried it in action, have sworn they would never buy a car without it, such is its potential for saving lives. You only have to need it once…
Given that many injuries are caused by whiplash in low-speed nose-to-tail shunts, we're also delighted that measures are being introduced to try to minimise these. We're eager to see how the manufacturers respond.