Honda Amaze is one of only three cars to score a four-star safety rating so far. Picture: SUPPLIED
Honda Amaze is one of only three cars to score a four-star safety rating so far. Picture: SUPPLIED

Of the 12 South African vehicles so far crash-tested by Global NCAP, only one was fitted with electronic stability control (ESC): the Toyota Yaris.

Yet it’s a feature that could have saved many lives in a country with a dismal safety record of more than 13,500 road deaths per year, says the Automobile Association (AA).

The AA, in partnership with the Global NCAP, is campaigning to make the feature mandatory in all cars sold locally. Its newly launched #StopTheCrash partnership is hosting live demonstrations of crash-avoidance technologies in support of the UN Global Goals and the Decade of Action for Road Safety.

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Launched at the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit in Johannesburg last week, #StopTheCrash also focuses on the life-saving benefits of Autonomous Emergency Braking and Anti-lock Braking Systems (ABS) for motorcycles.

Global NCAP and the #StoptheCrash partnership is encouraging the Sa government to take a leadership role for the African continent in the fitment of vehicle safety technology.

“Electronic Stability Control can save nearly as many lives as seat belts,” said Alejandro Furas, Global NCAP technical director, at last week’s  #StopTheCrash launch.

He said road safety should be democratised by fitting all cars with basic safety features such as ABS brakes, ESC and airbags. “We want to get one- and two-star cars out of the market,” he said, referring to the internationl system that awards vehicles with a crash safety rating of between zero and five stars.

The 12 SA cars so far crash-tested by Global NCAP. The columns, from left, denote the number of airbags fitted to the vehicle, the adult occupant safety rating and the child occupant safety rating. Picture: SUPPLIED
The 12 SA cars so far crash-tested by Global NCAP. The columns, from left, denote the number of airbags fitted to the vehicle, the adult occupant safety rating and the child occupant safety rating. Picture: SUPPLIED

Of the 12 SA vehicles so far crash-tested over the past three years by Global NCAP, three have achieved a four-star crash rating for adult protection, six have received three stars and one has received a single star. Two vehicles, the Chery QQ3 and Nissan NP300 Hardbody, controversially received zero scores.

Only one car, the Renault Sandero, has so far achieved a four-star crash rating for child protection (see graphic).

“#StopTheCrash demonstrates the important technologies available to avoid crashes,” said Sikkie Kajee, chair of AA SA at last week’s launch.

“Africa is the least motorised continent in the world but has the highest per capita death rate. We simply have to deal with this crisis; one way is to avoid crashes. While vehicles in SA meet minimum standards, we again highlight the fact that for us, minimum is not good enough and more needs to be done to protect road users. We have an obligation to see this happen.”

David Ward, president of Global NCAP and chair of the #StopTheCrash partnership, said: “We strongly encourage the SA government to take a leadership role in the African continent by adopting legislation to require the fitment of #StopTheCrash technologies in all new vehicles and motorcycles.

“We would also advise drivers and riders to always consider safety performance when buying a car or motorbike, choosing the safest model available for their budget, especially those fitted with the latest safety systems.”

Ward is pushing to make it obligatory for all vehicles to carry their crash test scores on windscreen labels.

“Some 3,700 people are killed on the world’s roads every day, and the UN’s Decade of Action encourages motor companies to adhere to minimum safety standards and to make consumers aware of their choices,” Ward told Motor News.

He admits that educating the SA public is a challenge in a country where cars with poor safety ratings, such as the Datsun GO and Renault Kwid, are strong sellers. The Datsun Go+ and Renault Kwid each scored only a single star in international crash tests, although both cars have subsequently been upgraded with standard ABS brakes and at least one airbag.

Later this year, the Datsun Go+ is to gain ESC, a feature that Ward says is the most significant advance in vehicle safety since the introduction of the seat belt and has saved tens of thousands of lives. On dry, wet or slippery roads if the vehicle starts to skid, ESC corrects the slide by reducing engine torque and braking individual wheels to bring the vehicle back on course.

The other technology being promoted by #StopTheCrash, Autonomous Emergency Braking, uses forward-looking sensors to detect an impeding crash with vehicles, obstacles or pedestrians and automatically applies the brakes if the driver fails to. The system, currently available on more expensive cars, is due to become mandatory on all new cars in Europe from 2021.