The Evolution of Car Safety

The Evolution of Car Safety

If you grew up in the 1970’s, or before, you’ll no doubt remember when drivers didn’t have to wear seatbelts, cars mainly had metal bumpers, sports cars always had flip up headlamps and road deaths were spiralling out of control. Drink driving wasn’t seen to be quite as anti-social as it was now and it wasn’t unusual to see cars in ditches or crashed into buildings most Saturday and Sunday mornings in towns and villages across the country.

When the U.K entered the E.C in the late 1970’s, legislation started to slowly affect car manufacturers. But, at around the same time rules governing how to drive started to slowly change too.

Whilst not all recent legislation can be directly attributed to what is now the E.U, there is no doubt that common sets of rules across the continent has helped save lives. But the U.K has managed to actually perform better than many of it’s European counterparts…but why?

We mentioned drink driving and there’s no doubt that the governments over the years have been pretty successful in making drink driving highly anti social. More recently, attempts have been made, again quite successfully through marketing campaigns online and on television, at doing the same thing for using a mobile phone at the wheel and even speeding. In fact, in the last 3 or 4 years, legislation has been introduced in the UK whereby diabetics, who have a theoretical risk of having an ‘episode’ behind the wheel of a car, have to check their blood sugar levels each time before setting off on a journey.

But, in addition to public campaigns to urge drivers to accept greater responsibility and laws ensuring they do, there have also been improvements to the environment in which drivers find themselves in.

Roads and junctions in particular are now analysed in great detail before even being built to ensure they are as safe as they can be. Ever wondered why there is a seemingly pointless round-about, or a ‘Stop’ rather than a give-way at a junction? Chances are it’s linked to safety.

Cars have changed too, of course, All cars are fitted not only with seat belts to restrain drivers and passengers, but we must also now use them. There are airbags, not just for the driver and passenger, but also often in the doors and sides of vehicles, making the inside of some cars like a giant cushion in a crash. Many manufacturers are now introducing auto-braking technology, and you may not even realise this, but many modern vehicles also have clever little features like hazzard lights that come on automatically when a car or van brakes suddenly, so following vehicles are quickly alerted to slowing traffic ahead.

Crumple zones have been a massive success story with standards across Europe being met inside laboratories and test centres with crash test dummies simulating how a human being would respond in various scenarios, as well as areas of a car being designed to ‘crumple’ upon impact to take the velocity out of the crash.

Materials used in cars have changed, and again, cars in 2018 are always built with head restraints now…these were a luxury item in the 1970’s when they were more commonly known as ‘head rests’.

The modern MOT is possibly the enemy of many but it’s purpose is to ensure that vehicles on the road are roadworthy and not a danger to the driver, passenger or other road users. So, think twice next time you receive a MOT certificate with advisory notifications…it could be a life saver, literally.