Electronic Safety Survey

UK Drivers Don't Share Euro Enthusiasm for Safety Gizmos

29 August 2007

Press Information: Strictly embargoed until 00.01 on 30 August 2007

UK drivers, compared to others in Europe, are among the least switched on to the attraction of sophisticated electronic safety in their cars. Only real-time traffic information fires up their desire, research for the AA shows.

Electronic Stability Control (ESC), the device estimated to have the greatest impact on safety, potentially saving 4,000 lives across the EU 1, is the least valued in Britain. Among UK drivers, 74 per cent have or want the system in their cars compared to the European average of 84 per cent.

A survey of 8,000 motorists across 12 European countries identified four high-tech car safety systems craved for by drivers: the e-Call emergency call system, real-time traffic information (RTTI), pre-crash systems, and electronic stability control. Other than RTTI, British drivers were less enthusiastic than their European counterparts.

The survey, conducted for the AA by the Eurotest consortium, also showed that the number of UK drivers already benefiting from these advanced safety systems lags behind most in Europe.

UK drivers' wish list

Compared with the rest of Europe, the extent to which these electronic safety features are on a UK driver's wish list:

  • e-Call: 82% of UK drivers want or have the system, versus a European average of 87%.
  • Real-time traffic information: 84% v 83%
  • Pre-crash systems: 83% v 86%
  • Electronic Stability Control: 74% v 84%

And, comparing the proportion of drivers who already have these systems fitted to their cars:

  • e-Call: 10% in the UK, as opposed to 13% on average in Europe (highest – France 19%)
  • Real-time traffic information: 10% v 13% (highest – Switzerland 19%)
  • Pre-crash systems: 11% v 12% (highest – Switzerland 20%)
  • Electronic Stability Control: 22% v 36% (highest – Germany 53%)

Freedom to switch off

UK drivers were amongst the strongest European advocates for having the freedom to switch off these safety features whenever they want, second only to France with its 70 per cent support. This compares with an average of 60 per cent across Europe.

Resistance to training

There was also strong resistance among British drivers to taking part in classroom-based safety courses that explain the features and functions of sophisticated safety systems. Only 41.2 per cent were in favour, compared to the European average of 62 per cent.

AA comment

"It is estimated that Electronic Stability Control could prevent 7,800 crashes annually in the UK, but it's not foremost in the minds of British drivers. Coping with and trying to avoid traffic jams is their main fixation, helping to explain the UK's love affair with satellite navigation systems. However, across Europe, e-Call is the most wanted piece of safety kit," says Paul Watters, head of AA Public Affairs.

"UK drivers are reluctant to relinquish control of their vehicles to forces beyond their control, even with safety. They want the ability to take full control if they choose to – even if ESC means the car knows best."

"Being lectured on how their cars work also gets the thumbs down, although getting British drivers to read new car manuals has always been a problem. Many British drivers now associate classrooms with an alternative punishment to points on their licence."

Watters adds: "In-car technology is moving at a fast pace and electronic aids now available can make driving safer or easier. However, this European research has shown that some nationalities are more switched on, or off, than others to the technology."

"The AA urges car buyers and sales people to do their homework and check out what gizmos are fitted to new cars or are available as options. Some may well be of use and could prevent an accident."

In-car safety technologies now and in the future

  • Brake Assist System (BAS) - drivers are often reluctant to apply the brake pedal really hard. In situations where emergency braking is needed, BAS applies the full force of the brakes.
  • Electronic Stability Control (ESC) - this works in conjunction with the anti-lock braking system and can alter an individual wheel's speed to reduce the risk of skidding or loss of control.
  • Vision Enhancement (VE) / Vulnerable Road Users (VRU) / Advanced Front Light System (AFS) - systems which improve the driver's view of the road, such as headlights which follow the direction of the road.
  • Advanced Adaptive Cruise Control (Advanced ACC) - an enhanced cruise control system which allows the vehicle to maintain a constant distance from the vehicle in front, particularly useful when traffic speed varies.
  • Lane Keeping Assistant (LKA) / Lane Departure Warning (LDW) / Blind Spot Detection-Monitoring (BSD) - provides extra information for safer lane manoeuvres, warning a driver of vehicles in his blind spot or sounding a buzzer if the vehicle wanders out of lane. Lane Keeping Assistant will also help return the car to its correct course, although it won't take over the steering.
  • Driver Monitoring System (DMS) / Driver Drowsiness Detection / Driver Condition Monitoring / Alcohol Interlock / Alcolock - constantly monitoring driver's state including tiredness, the system also requires the driver to pass an alcohol test to take the car.
  • Intelligent Speed Adaptation (ISA) - adjusts a vehicle's speed to prevailing limits.
  • Real-Time Traffic Information System (RTTI) - provides information about the traffic situation on the route.
  • Pre-Crash Systems - readies the passive safety systems of the vehicle, such as seat belt pre-tensioners, in case of imminent impact.
  • Emergency Call (e-Call) - makes a call automatically to the emergency services in the event of an accident.

Notes to Editors

1FIA Foundation report and 'Choose ESC' campaign.

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29 August 2007