Charity urges car buyers to put safety first, as survey finds brand more important to young drivers

Tuesday 11 August 2015

Brake, the road safety charity 

Brake, the road safety charity, is encouraging drivers – especially the young – to put safety first when it comes to buying a new vehicle. The call comes on the back of survey results, released today (11 August 2015), showing safety features are less of a priority for young drivers when choosing a vehicle than its brand.

The survey, carried out on behalf of Brake and Direct Line, put safety technologies third on a list of decision-making factors for all drivers, behind reliability and fuel economy. However, less than half of drivers (48%) named safety as one of their three most important considerations. Among young drivers (17-24) it was even fewer – less than two in five (37%) – fewer than chose brand (39%).

‘Infotainment’ systems, which allow access to social media and other functions unrelated to driving, are also becoming an increasing factor in young drivers decision making and are fitted in many new vehicles. More than one in five (21%) young drivers (17-24) said they wanted such a system, and one in six (17%) said it is one of their most important features in choosing a vehicle. However, these systems could pose a distraction risk similar to that of using a mobile phone. Any attempt to multi-task at the wheel is known to make you at least two or three times more likely to crash [1].

The survey also showed a lack of engagement among drivers with important industry safety standards such as Euro NCAP. A five star Euro NCAP rating is the easiest way to be sure your vehicle is protecting both you and the people around you on the road, and yet less than a quarter (23%) of drivers said it was something they looked for in a new vehicle.

Brake is urging all drivers to put safety features that protect both themselves and others top of the list when choosing a new vehicle, opting for a five start Euro NCAP rating wherever possible.

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, Brake, said: “Vehicle safety technology has come on leaps and bounds, and a large part of the casualty reductions we have seen in recent decades are likely to be attributable to this. It is important that all drivers take advantage of these advances as much as possible, to protect both themselves and the people around them on foot and bike. When choosing a vehicle to drive on public roads, safety should always be the number one consideration. However, any vehicle is ultimately only ever as safe as the person driving it, and choosing the safest possible vehicle still needs to be combined with legal, considerate driving.”

Gus Park, director of motor at Direct Line,commented: “Our research shows that younger drivers are most at risk of a crash; however less than half this group chose safety in the top three considerations when buying a car. New cars are now more likely to be fitted with ‘infotainment’ systems, so we'd urge drivers to be sensible. As with mobile phones, a moment of distraction could potentially costs lives.”

Brake campaigns against all forms of driver distraction, including that caused by in-car technology, as part of its drive smart campaign. Tweet us: @Brakecharity, #DriveSmart. Read the survey report.

Brake’s advice: vehicle selection

Drivers should choose vehicles that not only protect the occupants, but also minimise the threat posed to other road users. Some vehicles are designed to minimise the damage to vulnerable road users in a collision. For example, cars with a short front-end and a wide windshield are less likely to kill pedestrians in a crash [2].

The safety features of new European cars are rated in crash tests by Euro NCAP. They provide a star rating that take into account occupant safety, child occupant safety and pedestrian safety [3]. Brake strongly advises anyone buying a new car to consult these ratings at and buy the safest vehicle they can afford for their own and others’ protection.

From January 2016, vehicles will only be able to achieve a maximum five-star Euro NCAP rating if they are fitted with collision avoidance technologies such as pedestrian detection, lane departure warning and autonomous emergency braking (AEB). AEB uses sensors to detect hazards ahead, and apply the brakes automatically if a collision is predicted. It could reduce pedestrian casualties by 15% [4], and prevent 60 deaths and 760 serious injuries in the UK within three years if installed in all new vehicles [5].

Although there is an increasing range of features that either come as standard on new vehicles, or that people buying vehicles can opt for to help protect themselves, their families and other people around them, none of these features offer complete protection. Choosing the safest possible vehicle still needs to be combined with safe, legal and considerate driving.

For more facts on safe vehicles see For more advice for drivers see

Brake’s calls for government action

In-built vehicle ‘infotainment’ systems, that enable drivers to perform tasks straight from the dashboard that have nothing to driving, such as checking social media, are becoming increasingly widespread. If these devices are used for tasks such as emailing and social media updates while driving, they are potentially as distracting and dangerous as using a mobile phone. Brake therefore calls on government to regulate their use, and to implement tougher penalties for distracted drivers. Brake is also in support of government-backed testing of driverless vehicles currently taking place, technology which Brake believes has the potential to lead to huge casualty reductions.

About the report

These survey results come from Section 2 of Report 1: Are you ready to drive?, part of the Direct Line and Brake reports on safe driving, 2015-17, released today (Tuesday 11 August 2015). The survey consisted of 1,000 drivers and was conducted by Surveygoo. Read the report.

Full results

Q1. Which of the following do you consider most important when choosing a new vehicle, aside from its cost? (tick your top three)

  • 75% said build quality and reliability (17-24: 55%)
  • 73% said fuel economy (17-24: 36%)
  • 48% said safety technologies (17-24: 37%)
  • 24% said power and performance (17-24: 20%)
  • 23% said versatility and utility (17-24: 18%)
  • 21% said brand (17-24: 39%)
  • 13% said environmental impact (17-24: 18%)
  • 7% said entertainment/infotainment systems (17-24: 17%)
  • 2% said none of the above (17-24: 0%)

Q2. Which of the following features would you want to have on your next car? (tick any that apply)

  • 74% said airbags (17-24: 40%)
  • 67% said anti-lock brakes (ABS) (17-24: 29%)
  • 59% said blind spot warning system (17-24: 38%)
  • 37% said autonomous emergency braking (AEB) (17-24: 28%)
  • 29% said pedestrian protection systems (17-24: 0%)
  • 27% said adaptive cruise control (17-24: 31%)
  • 23% said five star Euro NCAP rating (17-24: 11%)
  • 12% said infotainment system, e.g. social media access (17-24: 21%)
  • 2% said none of the above (17-24: 0%)


Brake is a national road safety charity that exists to stop the needless deaths and serious injuries that happen on roads every day, make streets and communities safer for everyone, and care for families bereaved and injured in road crashes. Brake promotes road safety awareness, safe and sustainable road use, and effective road safety policies. We do this through national campaignscommunity education, services for road safety professionals and employers, and by coordinating the UK's flagship road safety event every November, Road Safety Week. Brake is a national, government-funded provider of support to families and individuals devastated by road death and serious injury, including through a helpline and support packs.

Brake was founded in the UK in 1995, and now has domestic operations in the UK and New Zealand, and works globally to promote action on road safety.

Follow Brake on TwitterFacebook, or The Brake Blog. Follow Julie Townsend on Twitter.

Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.

Direct Line

Started in 1985, Direct Line became the first UK insurance company to use the telephone as its main channel of communication. It provides motor, home, travel and pet insurance cover direct to customers by phone or on-line.

Direct Line general insurance policies are underwritten by UK Insurance Limited, Registered office: The Wharf, Neville Street, Leeds LS1 4AZ. Registered in England No 1179980. UK Insurance Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Direct Line and UK Insurance limited are both part of Direct Line Insurance Group plc. Customers can find out more about Direct Line products or get a quote by calling 0845 246 3761 or visiting

End notes

[1] The impact of driver inattention on near-crash/crash risk, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2006

[2] Effects of vehicle impact velocity, vehicle front-end shapes on pedestrian injury risk, Xiamen University of Technology, 19/09/12

[3] Pedestrian protection, Euro NCAP

[4] Vehicle safety, DaCoTa, 2012

[5] Auto Braking Cars: Government Should Meet Motorists Halfway, Thatcham, 2014

Tags: research vehicle safety standards