Wednesday, 16th June 2021

This Month's Magazine

Is your car going to save your life in a crash?

Euro NCAP provides motoring consumers with a realistic and independent assessment of the safety performance of some of the most popular cars sold in Europe.

During 2002 (the most recent year for which statistics are available), 3,431 people died on UK roads. With this heavy toll of lives it is hardly surprising that today, more than ever before, car buyers are considering safety as a vital concern before making a purchase.

In order to do this they need up-to-date, accurate and unbiased comparative safety figures. There are, of course, safety standards that all new cars must comply with but these standards provide a minimum standard of safety and this is where the European New Car Assessment Program (Euro NCAP) comes in.

Euro NCAP is a consortium of national agencies (including our own Department for Transport) that aims to encourage manufacturers to exceed these minimum standards by conducting four different types of test on each model of car. 

  • Frontal Impact Test - This takes place at 40mph, with the car striking a deformable barrier that overlaps the car on the driver's side.
  • Side Impact Test - This takes place at 30mph. A trolley with a deformable front is towed into the driver's side of the car to simulate a side-on crash.
  • Pedestrian Impact Test - A series of tests are carried out to simulate the car striking adult and child pedestrians at 25mph.
  • Pole Test - A high proportion of fatalities happen when a car strikes a pole-shaped object such as a road sign, tree or lamppost.

There are many such objects at the side of the road, especially in urban areas. When such accidents occur, the car is often skidding and travelling sideways.


Consequently, in this test, the car itself is propelled into a rigid pole. This test is very useful for testing side airbags which can save lives in such circumstances.

In the first two tests, the necessary data is gathered from two steel-skeletoned, rubber-skinned dummies called Hybrid III and EuroSID II, filled with sensing equipment. As the crash occurs, computers receive sensory information from the dummies to gauge how each body part (head, chest, abdomen, legs etc.) will fare in such an accident.

The dummies themselves are designed to survive the crashes, which is just as well - they cost over £100,000 each to make.

So, how do you acquire the necessary information to make your choice of a safe car? Whilst it is a legal requirement for all cars sold in the European Union to meet the safety requirements, such information does not always appear in car advertisements, on the websites of car dealers or even those of the car manufacturers. Both dealers and manufacturers are likely to keep quiet about cars that don't achieve the coveted 5-star award.

To get accurate and entirely unbiased information, we suggest that you visit Euro NCAP's own website at You will find easy-to-compare safety ratings for small and large family cars, executive cars, roadsters, MPVs and more. Be sure to check out these ratings before buying a new car - you owe it to yourself and to your family.

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