By Samuel Smith
Last updated on: November 5, 2020 at 9:59 am
Holly Scott was doing nothing wrong. It was late and the 22-year-old was driving to her boyfriend’s house, deep in the Adelaide Hills.
While navigating Diggings Rd near Chapel Hill, she overcorrected a turn, her car slamming into a tree.
After years of therapy, Holly still hasn’t completely recovered from her injuries.
“I broke both legs, shattered my pelvis, broke vertebrae in my back, fractured my right hip, damaged internal organs and had a massive head injury,” Holly bravely recounts.
“My head injury affects my balance, speech and vision. Trying to learn to walk again was a huge task – I went from a wheelchair to a walking frame to walking sticks, to finally being able to walk on my own.
“My recovery is ongoing – I’m always going to need some sort of help,” she says.
In 2017, when Holly crashed, she was driving a popular 2006 model car.
In almost all respects, it seemed like a sensible buy. The problem, however, was that it had no side airbags and, consequently, didn’t have a 5-star ANCAP safety rating.
“I overcorrected and hit a tree on my side of the car. If [my car] had side airbags, I don’t think I’d have the injuries I do,” Holly says.
Looking back, Holly – like so many drivers – never really considered the ANCAP safety rating of her car, or its safety features.
“I never really thought about the safety rating of my car, or about airbags. I honestly thought it was a good, safe car – it was really popular with girls my age,” she says.
After spending months rebuilding her confidence, Holly made the brave decision to get back on the road. Needless to say, she now drives a 5-star ANCAP-rated car and encourages young drivers to attend RAA’s Street Smart High event.
ANCAP safety ratings are published for a range of new passenger, sports utility and light commercial vehicles entering the Australian and New Zealand markets. ANCAP star ratings range from 0-5 and indicate the level of safety a vehicle provides for occupants, pedestrians and cyclists in the event of a crash.
“ANCAP has been around for 28 years – we were formed back in 1992 and issued our first safety ratings in 1993,” says Rhianne Robson, ANCAP’s Director of Communications and Advocacy.
“There are currently 9 New Car Assessment Programs (NCAPs) around the world, with ANCAP being the second NCAP formed behind the United States.
“Back in the early days, ANCAP rated cars on a scale of Good, Acceptable, Marginal and Poor, based on a single destructive crash test. Since then, our test regime has evolved in so many ways – this includes the breadth of tests, the dummies we use and the way in which we score,” she says.
In 2020, ANCAP couldn’t be more serious about safety, putting new cars through their paces with an even broader range of complex tests.
Vehicles are assessed in 4 key areas: Adult Occupant Protection, Child Occupant Protection, Vulnerable Road User Protection and Safety Assist.
Extensive testing is performed in each area with vehicles required to reach a minimum score for each star-rating level. Star-rating thresholds are increased regularly to account for emerging safety features, which is why you should always check which year the car you’re interested in buying was tested.
“The more recent the date stamp, the more stringent the criteria that model has been assessed against. This is why we urge people to not only look for 5-star vehicles, but to buy the newest model they can afford,” Ms Robson says.
On each vehicle, ANCAP conducts 7 physical crash tests: the frontal offset test, the full width frontal test, the side impact test, the far-side impact test, the pedestrian protection test, the oblique pole test and the whiplash test.
Also assessed is the effectiveness of safety assist and collision avoidance technology. Safety tech assessed includes autonomous emergency braking, automatic emergency steering, lane support systems, speed assistance systems and driver monitoring systems.
Meet the family
The ANCAP dummy family consists of male, female, child and adult dummies in different shapes and sizes.
Some are designed to provide insight into the effect of frontal impact crashes, while others are created exclusively for side-impact tests. Recently, the family welcomed a few new members.
“Our dummy family has recently grown. We have male and female adult dummies, a 6-year-old, a 10-year-old and pedestrian and cyclist dummies,” says Ms Robson.
THOR (Test device for Human Occupant Restraint), introduced last year, is the most advanced dummy in ANCAP’s clan. He has more than 100 data channels running through his body, but 1 mission: to reflect and record human movement and limitations in frontal impact tests.
THOR’s price tag? More than $1 million, but rest assured he’s worth every cent.
A little research goes a long way
Recent research by RAA and Monash University showed road trauma could be cut by a third if all Australians travelled in the safest vehicles possible. The research was based on ANCAP safety ratings.
The research examined the potential reduction in road trauma if car buyers purchased the safest car they could afford – new or used.
“If the purchase and use of the safest vehicles was prioritised by all Australian motorists, we could see up to 290 lives saved and the serious injury of 5800 others avoided nationwide every year,” says RAA Future Mobility Expert, Mark Borlace.
If you’re buying a used car, make sure to check its Used Car Safety Rating. Some models with 5-star ratings can be purchased for under $10,000.
If Holly could give drivers one piece of advice, it would be to do your research before buying a car.
“Before, I never would have given safety features much thought. I would’ve gone with whatever looked best.
“Now I realise just how important they are. You never expect to be in a crash, but they could save your life. They should be at the top of everyone’s list.”