In this fact page we cover:

  • Technology which protects you in a crash (passive safety)
  • Technology which works to prevent a crash from happening (active safety)
  • Driverless cars and the future of vehicle safety
  • How to find out about the safety of your vehicle
More than 1.3 million people die on roads every year and millions more are seriously injured. Every death is a tragedy and every death preventable. Safe vehicles are an important part of the safe systems approach to road safety – a shared approach to prevent death and serious injury from road crashes.

Protecting you in a crash

Technologies which work to protect people inside, and outside, of the vehicle in the event of a crash are known as passive safety systems. This includes safety systems such as seat belts, airbags and crumple zones. The focus of these technologies are to reduce the impact of a crash and the level of injury to those involved.

Seat belts

Seat belts are one of the simplest and most important features for protecting vehicle occupants, and doing them up is one of the most basic steps drivers and passengers can take to reduce their risk of death or injury. In the UK, wearing a seat belt is a legal requirement if belts are fitted and drivers are responsible for children under 14 being in a restraint appropriate to their age and height.

In a crash you are
twice as likely
to die if you're not wearing a seat belt

Preventing crashes from happening

Technologies which work to prevent crashes from happening in the first place are known as active safety systems. These technologies are more recent additions to our vehicles and include established systems such as anti-lock braking (ABS) and electronic stability control (ESC) as well as newer innovations like autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and intelligent speed assistance (ISA).

Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS)

Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) describe active safety systems on a vehicle that can identify safety-critical situations and take action, either automatically or by sending a warning to the driver.

ADAS systems have developed rapidly in recent years, thanks in part to sensing technology; cameras, radar and laser technology referred to as lidar. These technologies is also helping the development of automated and driverless vehicles.

ADAS explained

89% of UK drivers think that all new cars should be fitted with the latest life-saving safety features, as standard

Driverless vehicles and the future of vehicle safety

Driverless vehicles are the potential final destination for the development of active safety technology. However, the complexities of roads and these technologies means it appears unlikely that we will see fully driverless vehicles, in all road environments, in the near future.

Two technology streams which are seen as fundamental to developing a fully driverless car are known as connectivity and autonomy - that's why you may often hear the term CAV, for connected and autonomous vehicles (and why the UK Government has a department called the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles, or CCAV).

Watch 'Our future journeys: safer by design' for more information on connected and autonomous vehicles


How to find out about the safety of your vehicle?

Euro NCAP, or the European New Car Assessment Programme, provides consumer information on the safety of new cars through a five-star rating system. Euro NCAP determies the safety rating through a series of vehicle tests, which they have designed and carry out. The tests they conduct represent real-life crash scenarios that could result in injured or killed car occupants or other road users.

In a Brake and Direct Line survey from 2018, 57% of UK drivers said that they would check a car's Euro NCAP rating before buying it. Nearly a quarter said that they didn't know if they would check, perhaps indicating a lack of public awareness about Euro NCAP.