Since the first recorded traffic fatality in 1899, the automotive world has made significant changes in safety practices and standards, especially over the past twenty years. The European New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP) has tested new vehicles for safety since 1997. The initial tests exposed major safety flaws in many cars on the market at the time. Their safety rating system is now backed by many European governments, consumer agencies, and even automotive manufacturers. To mark the twentieth anniversary of the testing program, the NCAP carried out tests on two vehicles that were made twenty years apart.
The organization tested a 1997 Rover 100 and a 2017 Honda Jazz. Both cars were subjected to head-on collisions at forty miles per hour at the Thatcham Research Facility, the United Kingdom’s only NCAP facility. The test involved ramming the vehicle into an object of a similar mass, which was intended to represent another vehicle on the road. The results revealed that the Honda undoubtedly left the driver in much better shape than the Rover did. It also sustained significantly less damage and deployed its life-saving airbags, a feature absent from the Rover.
The Rover was given a poor one-star safety rating when tested on release and was actually discontinued shortly after receiving the rating. The Honda Jazz, on the other hand, received a five out of five safety rating from the NCAP. Given that many vehicles that are twenty years old or older are still on North American roads, the results of the tests provide a clear warning to drivers of older cars. They illustrate just how much safer newer cars are compared to those that were manufactured a couple of decades ago.
This vehicle testing and rating system has contributed to making cars much safer and reducing deaths and injuries from car accidents in the United Kingdom by sixty-three percent since 1997. The number of pedestrians and cyclists killed by motorists has also dropped by forty-one percent during this time. Safety testing and certified ratings are now firmly entrenched in the practices of the global automotive industry. The NCAP has published over 630 safety ratings, spent over €160 million on testing, and crash-tested about 1,800 vehicles since first starting to examine automobile safety.
The NCAP’s current projects include improving child safety in vehicles, creating a dual-rating system for vehicles that have optional safety features, researching the safety of such vehicles as the Smart car, and introducing new types of safety testing. The NCAP has testing facilities in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, The Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. It has become impossible to test all new vehicles available, but estimates claim that nine out of ten cars sold in Europe have an NCAP safety rating.