How better brakes will save lives and cut costs

Car safety campaigners are urging the government to prevent road accidents and save lives by offering new car buyers a £500 incentive to buy a vehicle fitted with anti-crash technology. Thatcham Research, the body funded by car insurance companies to find ways to increase road safety and reduce the cost of motor accidents, has found that 90% of crashes are due to human error or distraction – and are therefore preventable.

Casualty reduction

According to Thatcham, greater deployment of autonomous emergency braking (AEB) anti-crash technology would lead to 760 fewer serious casualties and 60 fewer people killed on UK roads within three years. Over 10 years, it says the initiative could save a massive 1,220 lives and prevent nearly 136,000 casualties. Peter Shaw, Thatcham’s chief executive, said: “Vehicle technology has been a major factor in cutting UK road deaths. A responsible driver who pays extra to reduce the potential impact of their car should benefit from a helping hand from the government.” The argument runs that any such grant scheme would effectively pay for itself through a reduction in health care costs and post-accident traffic disruption. Mr Shaw is meeting with politicians, health organisations, insurers and vehicle manufacturers at the House of Commons today (March 25) to ask them to support the Thatcham ‘Stop the Crash’ campaign. He wants the Treasury to introduce and fund a £500 incentive for those choosing to buy new cars with AEB. If financial support is provided it is thought more manufacturers will begin to install AEB in new vehicles, potentially leading to a situation where, by 2025, all new cars have the technology fitted as standard. Mr Shaw also points out that the scheme could help to cut the cost of motor insurance for all drivers, as it would slash the number of injury claims at an average cost of £90,000. Insurers say whiplash claims alone add £90 to the cost of a typical policy.

What is AEB anti-crash technology?

Using technologies such as radar, lasers and optical sensors to identify other vehicles and in many cases pedestrians, AEB automatically applies the brakes if the driver does not respond in time, to avoid or lessen the damage caused by a collision. Statistics show that it cuts third party injury claims by 18%, while a study conducted in Sweden indicates that it results in a 48% reduction in road accidents. In fact, if all new cars were fitted with AEB by 2025, Thatcham’s figures indicate that an incredible 17,000 or more deaths and serious injuries could be avoided within 10 years. Motorists are not the only ones who stand to benefit from more cars being fitted with AEB. Cyclists and pedestrians are also more secure around vehicles using the technology. Mr Shaw added: “Auto-brake safety not only prevents or reduces the impact for the driver, but the more advanced systems can prevent injury to vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists. “While overall numbers of all casualties are decreasing each year, pedestrians and particularly cyclists now represent an increasing share of the injuries. In 2012 in the UK there were 420 pedestrian and 118 cyclist fatalities. An incentive that will help to reduce these casualties cannot be ignored.”

How much does it cost?

About a quarter of the new cars on sale in the UK today are available with AEB, often as an optional extra. However, just 10% of cars sold are fitted with the technology – probably due to the extra cost. Adding AEB technology to a new car ups the price by about £1,000, which is likely to prove off-putting to cost-conscious motorists – despite the fact that some insurers offer drivers of cars with AEB discounts of up to 10%. That’s why Thatcham is asking the government to offer an incentive of £500 to all those who choose a new car with AEB. Shaw said: “The time is right to demonstrate to consumers that vehicles with AEB should be their natural choice. We calculate that with a £500 cash incentive – about half the additional cost of the AEB system – the government would be meeting the motorist halfway.” You can find out more about Stop the Crash on twitter, look up the hashtag #stopthecrash

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