In this page we will:

  • Explain how your choice of vehicle has an impact on safety
  • Teach you about vehicle safety ratings
  • Tell you some key technologies to look out for, if you're buying a car

This is step 1 of the Brake and Direct Line Roadmap to safe and healthy journeys, helping you to learn about, and make, safe and healthy journey choices.

Vehicle technology plays a huge part in the safety of our roads. Modern cars are designed to protect people in the event of a crash and also to prevent road crashes from happening in the first place.

How the type of vehicle you use has an impact on road safety

Your choice of vehicle not only affects your safety on the roads, it also affects anyone who is within your vehicle, and all other road users you may come into contact with too.

Walking or cycling Down arrow icon to open accordion

Choosing to walk or cycle is the active and sustainable choice which can help keep you fit and healthy. The more people who choose to get around this way, the fewer motor vehicles there will be on the roads and road safety will improve for everyone!

Getting around on foot or by bike also means that you are less likely to cause death or injury to others on the road, although you are at an increased risk yourself from other motorised forms of transport, as you lack the protection of a vehicle shell around you, if you're in a crash.

Driving a car Down arrow icon to open accordion

If you choose to drive to get around, your particular choice of car makes a huge difference to your safety, and the safety of other road users. For example, larger cars such as sports utility vehicles (SUVs, often referred to as 4x4s) cause much more damage if they hit someone. This is because SUVs are generally heavier and stiffer than normal cars, and therefore cause more damage on impact. They are also taller, which means that pedestrians hit by SUVs are more likely to suffer head or chest injuries, which are more likely to be fatal.

Large vehicles, like SUVs, also have bigger blind spots, so drivers are more likely to fail to see vulnerable road users, particularly children who are smaller and harder to spot.

Riding a motorcycle Down arrow icon to open accordion

Choosing to ride motorcycles means that you are much less likely, per mile travelled, to cause death or injury to other road users, than if you're in a car. However, because of the high speeds motorcycles can travel at, combined with the lack of protection in a crash, motorcycle riders face a comparatively high level of risk to their own safety on the roads. They are also at risk of other factors that cause crashes, such as drivers often not spotting motorcyclists at junctions.

What kills most on the roads? This graphic from PACTS (Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety) shows how different modes of transport pose differing levels of risk for vehicle users and other road users.

What kills most on the roads
Reproduced from PACTS report 'What kills most on the roads? New analysis for the new transport agenda'.

Vehicle safety ratings

If you're buying a car, understanding vehicle safety ratings is crucial to making a good purchase.

Euro NCAP

Most new vehicles are tested for to see how well they protect occupants, and other road users, in a crash. In Europe these tests are carried out by Euro NCAP.

Euro NCAP provides a star rating for overall safety, which is made up from an assessment of four areas

  1. adult occupant protection
  2. child protection
  3. vulnerable road user protection
  4. safety assist, which assesses driver assistance and crash avoidance technologies

All four categories are included in the overall rating, so to achieve the top five-star rating new vehicles must have adequate protection for everyone inside and outside the vehicle, and at least some safety assist technology.

Buying a motorcycle

Unlike cars, there is no equivalent safety standard in place for motorcycles, so if you're purchasing a motorcycle, make sure to do your research on the safest features and models to look out for.

The following technologies are assessed by Euro NCAP in their safety assist category. These are active safety technologies which are designed to help prevent crashes from happening. When choosing a car, check to see if it has these safety assist technologies included.