What’s most important to you when buying a car? Not safety according to a survey by the road safety charity Brake. Here’s Ed from Brake on why they’re calling on car buyers to put safety first.
Turn on your TV. Wait for the ad break. How many are for cars?
These days, it seems like every other ad. I guess this has been the case for a long time. But now, they somehow seem more insistent – chasing their share of the market in a society where owning your own car is no longer quite the mark of personal status it once was.
We are invited to ‘fall back in love with driving’. But how? What are the pull factors that guide our buying decisions?
Watching these ads gives us a hint. The traditionalist marketers go for power, performance; the cachet of a classic brand. Those more in tune with the zeitgeist go with connectivity, the ‘infotainment’ systems that keep us constantly in touch with the world.
And – encouragingly from Brake’s point of view – some lead on safety, from autonomous emergency braking, to speed limiters – a feature that might once have been seen as commercial suicide.
Brake’s survey says…
When Brake asked drivers what’s driving their decision making, safety features came a disappointing third, just under half citing it as one of their most important considerations.
It gets more interesting when we look at young drivers (aged 17-24). For them, safety scored only 37% – pipped to the post by brand on 39%.
What do we make of this? Is it unfair to suggest young drivers don’t care about safety? Perhaps it’s not just flashy marketing that draws in inexperienced car buyers. Perhaps they implicitly trust that the most well-known brands are the safest.
But are we right to trust car manufacturers to put safety first? Judging by the increasing proliferation of in-car ‘infotainment’ systems, giving access to social media and other functions unrelated to driving, we might be well advised to think twice.
Like hands-free kits, these systems are partly marketed as a safety feature – allowing us to stay connected while keeping our hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. Our survey suggests some buyers find them a draw, young drivers especially – one in five 17-24 year olds said they want one. But, like hands-free kits, they could be just as dangerous as what they replace – it’s the cognitive distraction that’s the real killer.
At Brake, we’re asking car buyers to put safety first. You don’t have to be an expert. Make use of Euro NCAP ratings, which are shown in every Which? car review, and help you assess if your vehicle is protecting not just you and your passengers, but those around you too. And remember – a reputable brand is not automatically a byword for safety.
This is a guest post by Ed Morrow, campaigns and communications officer for Brake, the road safety charity. All opinions expressed here are Ed’s own and not necessarily those of Which?