160 million euros spent, 1,800 cars crashed, over 630 ratings given, and 20 years given all in the interest of saving lives.

Massive improvements have been made in car safety over the last 20 years. A dramatic video showcasing just that was recently released by Euro NCAP. The video shows the crash test of a 1997 Rover 100 that crumples up in a 64kph offset frontal impact. Alongside it is the video of the latest Honda Jazz being crash-tested. The Honda provides a high level of protection to its occupants while those in the Rover could be seriously injured.

Matthew Avery of Thatcham Research, one of Euro NCAP's crash test centres, said, “Wherever you were sitting in the Rover 100 it was bad news. In a head-on crash at 64kph, you definitely do not walk away.” Those in the Honda Jazz experiencing the exact same crash would likely have walked away with some bruising.

The video is being used by Euro NCAP to highlight that its crash testing has helped halve the deaths on UK roads since 1997. That’s 1,732 people in 2015, down from 3,599 in 1997. There has also been a 40 percent drop in the number of pedestrians and cyclists killed or injured on UK roads.

More than 78,000 lives have been saved across Europe post the start of Euro NCAP’s tough crash safety tests two decades ago. Overall, Euro NCAP has spent over 160 million euros, crash-tested some 1,800 cars and published over 630 ratings in a bid to make cars safer. In the early years of testing, many safety failings of the best-selling family cars were brought to light and this forced a fundamental rethink about car design and build to prevent accidents and save lives.

Nine of ten cars sold on the European market today hold a Euro NCAP safety rating. The motor industry today also actively supports that new requirements for top safety ratings need to be developed. Safety technologies that didn’t exist 20 years ago or were optional extras, like driver and passenger airbags, side protection airbags, belt reminders and electronic stability control are now standard fitments in all cars sold in Europe.

Euro NCAP’s secretary general, Michiel van Ratingen said, “As we mark 20 years at the forefront of road safety, we are very proud that Euro NCAP’s programme of safety tests has achieved major, life-saving improvements in cars and has helped Europe reach the lowest road fatality rate for any region in the world.”

“Twenty years on from what started as a controversial programme, rejected by manufacturers and supposedly aiming for unrealistic safety standards, Euro NCAP is now firmly part of the automotive mainstream. Thousands of fatalities have been prevented, consumer demand for safety is high, manufacturers compete on safety rating results and vehicle safety standards continue to improve,” said Max Mosely, Euro NCAP’s first chairman and the chairman of Global NCAP.

Euro NCAP is far from done. It now wants to reduce the number of road deaths and injuries further by making autonomous emergency braking (AEB) standard equipment on all cars sold. Around 2,700 deaths and injuries can be prevented in the UK every year if this happens. It also wants motorists to only buy Euro NCAP five-star-rated models and to ensure that the cars they buy are equipped with AEB and lane keeping assist. In 2018, it plans on introducing new tests that assess the lane keeping systems and pedestrian and cyclist-detecting AEB systems.

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