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Safer Vehicles


Have you ever thought about the safety of the car you drive?  Many Australians believe that if they buy a new car then it has to be safe, but when it comes to safety not all cars are created equal.

Fortunately, the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) and the National Roads and Motorists' Association (NRMA) can help you know which new and used cars are safer than others.
If everyone bought the safest car in its class, including older cars, overall safety across Australia would improve by 25%, so do your part and try to buy a 5-star safety rated vehicle.1
Because if all new cars had the equivalent safety features as the safest vehicle in its class, death and serious injury could be reduced by up to 40%. This means a staggering 65 lives would be saved each year.2
To provide car buyers with independent information about the safety of the new and used cars on the Australian market, cars are given a one to five star rating (five being the highest), based on results from the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) for new cars or Used Car Safety Ratings (UCSR).

For more information please visit howsafeisyourcar.com.au

Safety Features

Lane Departure Warnings

Electronic Stability Control

Electronic Stability Control (ESC) is an active safety system that reduces the risk of a driver losing control of the vehicle and helps reduce the chances of single vehicle or off-path crashes. 
ESC builds upon features such as Anti-lock Braking Systems (ABS) and Traction Control to stabilise the vehicle when it deviates from the driver’s steered direction. International research show that single vehicle crashes can be reduced by 35% in passenger vehicles and 67% in four wheel drive and sports utility vehicles fitted with ESC. 
ESC is also known by different names by different manufacturers:

  • Electronic Stability Program (ESP) – Holden, Audi, Chrysler, Mercedes, Saab, Volkswagen

  • Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) – Ford, BMW, Jaguar, Land Rover

  • Stability/Swerve Control (VSC) – Toyota, Lexus

  • Active Stability Control (ASC) – Mitsubishi

  • Dynamic Stability and Traction Control (DSTC) – Volvo

  • Stability Assist (VSA) – Honda

  • Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) – Subaru, Nissan

The effectiveness of Electronic Stability Control in Australasia was evaluated by the Curtin-Monash Accident Research Centre.  You can download the report below.

Follow-up Evaluation of the Effectiveness of Electronic Stability Control in Australasia - Curtin-Monash Accident Research Centre PDF (49 page 705 KB)

Anti-Lock Braking System

An Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) is a system which prevents the wheels from locking while braking. An ABS allows the driver to maintain steering control under heavy breaking by preventing a skid and allowing the wheel to continue to forward roll and create lateral control, as directed by driver steering inputs.

Emergency Brake Assist

Emergency Brake Assist (EBA) is a safety system in motor vehicles designed to ensure maximum braking power is used in an emergency stop situation. By interpreting the speed and force with which the brake pedal is pushed, the system detects if the driver is trying to execute an emergency stop. If the brake pedal is not fully applied, the system overrides and fully applies the brakes until the Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) takes over to stop the wheels locking up.
The system will not reduce the stopping distance of the car, but it will make sure that the car is stopped in the shortest distance that it potentially could by compensating for any hesitancy in applying the brakes hard in an emergency situation.
Brake Assist is based on the ABS technology of a vehicle and will not be found on a vehicle without ABS. It should not change how drivers respond to an emergency – you should still brake as hard as possible.

Seat Belt Reminder Systems

A seat belt reminder system is a system alerting the driver by means of sound and visual indications when a seat belt should be worn. The reminder signal should be loud and clear but not annoying. The target is to remind people, who accept the benefits of the seat belt, that they have not fastened their belt. Some seat belt reminder systems won't allow a vehicle to start until the belt is connected.

Active Head Restraints

Head restraints limit the backward movement of the head during a rear-impact crash, reducing the chance of neck injury commonly referred to as whiplash. Head restraints meeting specific size and strength requirements are required at front seats, but not in rear seats. 

The newest type of head restraint is an active head restraint. In general, during a rear-end crash, active head restraints automatically move forward to close the gap between the occupant’s head and the head restraint.

Side & Curtain Airbags

Side and curtain airbags protect occupants in a side impact crash. Curtain airbags drop down from the top of the side window, creating a cushion between the occupant and the side of the car and typically protect the head and shoulders. Side airbags usually activate from the door panel, protecting the occupant’s torso.
Advice on airbags and their deployment
Modern vehicles can have up to 8 or more airbags. In order to provide effective protection they must be able to deploy freely without obstruction. The below document outlines some of the key things to consider when making vehicle modifications or adding accessories such as GPS to ensure your airbags work as effectively as they should.

Deployment Issues with Airbags PDF (4 page 54 KB)

WA car owners are advised of a recent recall of Takata front passenger and driver airbags affecting numerous vehicles within Australia. The recall is to related to misdeployment of airbags, presenting a risk to drivers and passengers. For further information on this recall, including a full list of current recalls, consumers are encouraged to click on the link to the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission’s website.

Daytime Running Lights

Daytime Running Lights (DRLs) are bright headlights that are illuminated during the day in order to make vehicles more visible. DRLs have been shown to improve vehicle visibility and estimation of distance resulting in reduced crash rates. A Western Australian study showed vehicles with DRLs were more than 8 times safer than those without.

Car Colour

A study undertaken by the Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC) investigating the relationship between vehicle colour and crash risk found that black, blue, grey, green, red and silver vehicles had a higher crash risk compared with white vehicles. Colours higher on the visibility index, such as white, are recommended to reduce crash risk.

Four Wheel Drives

Recent analyses have indicated that Four Wheel Drive (4WD) vehicles cause comparatively more harm than other passenger vehicles when in collision with other road users, and are relatively unstable vehicles, with a high risk of rollover. In relation to crash risk overall, however, the primary risk estimates show that 4WD vehicles are generally safe vehicles, despite their higher rollover risk. However, in relation to young drivers there is an unusually high risk for 4WD occupants compared to other passenger vehicles.

Buying a New Car

When looking for a car that’s right for you, a good place to start is with the car’s safety rating, you can check it on the ANCAP website or ask your car dealer. Cars with 5-star ratings provide much better protection in a crash than those with a lower rating.

FACT: Cars with higher ANCAP stars do not necessarily cost more. In fact, many reasonably priced makes and models score well in safety ratings and in some cases, better than some of the more expensive models.

The key safety features you should be looking for include:

Primary (crash avoidance)

  • Autonomous Emergency Braking

  • Electronic Stability Control (ESC)

  • Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS)

Secondary (Occupant protection)

  • Emergency Brake Assist

  • Seat belt reminder system

  • Head restraints

  • Side and curtain airbags

  • Daytime Running Lights (DRLs)

DID YOU KNOW: It is estimated that occupants have twice the chance of being killed or seriously injured in an ANCAP 1-star rated vehicle compared to an ANCAP 5-star rated vehicle.

Buying a Second-Hand Car

You’ve got your sights set on that car. It’s the right price, looks good, and it’s the perfect size for what you need.  But there are two important factors you may not have thought about:

  • It is important that your vehicle offers you good protection from injury in a crash.

  • It is also important that your vehicle offers good protection to other road users, such as pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists or the drivers of other vehicles involved in a crash.

The Used Car Safety Ratings Guide provides information on the safety popular vehicles offer to both driver and other road users.

DID YOU KNOW: 'Safe Pick' models are cars that are not only safe for you but safe for other vehicle drivers, pedestrians, cyclists and motorists as well. You can find out more about “Safe Pick” models here:

Used Car Safety Ratings - Buyer's Guide - 2016-17 PDF (8 pages 459 KB)
Used Car Safety Ratings - Buyer's Guide Chart - 2016-17 PDF (1 page 134 KB)

Further information, including frequently asked questions and technical details can be read in the following reports from the Monash University Accident Research Centre.

Summary of the 2012 Update of the Used Car Safety Ratings PDF (10 page 250 KB)
Vehicle Safety Ratings Estimated from Police Reported Crash Data: 2011 Update PDF (247 page 6.2 MB)

Fact Sheets & Research

Safer Vehicles Road Safety Fact Sheet PDF (7 page 348 KB)
In-Vehicle Intelligent Transport Systems (C-MARC) PDF
Promoting Vehicles Which Offer Enhanced Occupant Protection (C-MARC) PDF
A Consumer Guide to Safer Vehicles for Remote and Regional Areas PDF (7 page 1.4 MB) 

Modelling the Road Trauma Effects of Potential Vehicle Safety Improvements in the Western Australian Light Passenger Vehicle Fleet by the Curtin-Monash Accident Research Centre. You can download the summary and full report below.

Summary PDF (7 pages 56 KB)
Full Report PDF (65 pages 597 KB)

The effectiveness of Electronic Stability Control in Australasia was evaluated by the Curtin-Monash Accident Research Centre. You can download the report below. 
Full Report PDF (49 pages 705 KB)

Retrospective and projected future impact of characteristics of the New Zealand and Australian vehicle fleet on pedestrain injury. Report by Monash University Accident Research Centre, April 2014.
Full Report PDF (43 pages 946 KB)

Campaign Evaluation

Safer Vehicles - ESC - July 2013

The Safer Vehicles campaign was launched in October 2012, and there was a heavy burst of media activity from October - December 2012 and then again in February through to the end of May in 2013. It aired exclusively in Regional and Remote WA.

Evaluation Report

'Safer Vehicles' campaign evaluation - July 2013 PDF (15 page 1.0 MB)


  • Achieved good levels of awareness (77%)

  • For all media channels, awareness of the campaign was higher in Remote areas of WA compared to Regional areas.

  • Comprehension of the ESC campaign was strong, with three in four correctly identifying a key message. The primary message received was that ESC helps drivers to maintain control.

  • After seeing the ESC campaign, nearly three in four say that the next time they go shopping for a vehicle, they will be more likely to purchase one which features Electronic Stability Control.


  1. Australasian New Car Assessment Program, www.ancap.com.au
  2. Monash University, Accident research Centre: A Model for considering the 'Total Safety' of the Light Passenger Vehicle Fleet, by Stuart Newstead, Amanda Delaney, Linda Watson, Max Cameron, Report No. 228, August 2004

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Published: 4/11/2015 8:40:52 AM