In September 2016, the Automobile Association (AA) published its first annual ‘Entry Level Vehicle Safety Report’, to identify and compare the safety features in 23 motor vehicles available on the South African market for under R150 000. Poor economic growth, coupled with the increasing price of new motor vehicles has put pressure on young South African drivers, who are looking for an affordable yet safe vehicle. Worryingly, those looking for a vehicle seem to be more preoccupied with the affordability of a vehicle and not its safety features. Below are the overall results.
The results show that only one vehicle, the Citroën C1, had all the safety features installed. Additionally, 6 of the 23 vehicles had no safety features installed, as identified by the linked report. And, while various vehicles had few or no safety features, they were still fitted with equipment regarded as ‘luxury’ and not necessity. In terms of overall safety, a score of 4 or more was identified as ‘acceptable safety’, a score between 3 and 3.99 was considered ‘moderate safety’, and a score below 3 was considered ‘poor safety’. The table above reveals that only four vehicles fall in the ‘acceptable safety’ category, eight into the ‘moderate safety’ category and eleven into the ‘poor safety’ category.
READ MORE: 2014 Road Accident Figures
The AA finds that young drivers are prioritising affordability over safety when it comes to buying a vehicle, and the latter cannot be disregarded. In trying to understand why this is so, CEO of the free online financial education platform Just One Lap, Kristia van Heerden, explains that, “owning a car makes life much simpler in a country where public transport isn’t always available or reliable. Because of the huge quality of life improvement associated with owning a car, it is often tempting to buy a car before you’re financially ready to shoulder the burden. An older model that’s been through the wars is where many South Africans have to start. Sadly, safety is very low down on the list of requirements”.
In response to these results, Johan Jonck, owner and editor of the road safety educational resource, Arrive Alive feels that “it is concerning that our inexperienced young drivers, who in most instances struggle with affordability in purchasing vehicles, will also be exposed to the most risk in a collision. This further emphasises the importance of young driver education and the need for defensive driving, while manufacturers still try to make vehicles both affordable and safe”.
The AA produced this report, in the hopes that the public will become better informed about the safety features their potential new cars might or might not have, and to urge South African motor manufacturers to make safety a priority even in a vehicle that is considered entry level. Alongside Car Insurance, which helps cushion the financial blow after an accident, safety features prevent and minimise fatalities and injuries on our roads. This report will be produced annually, to assess the safety features fitted into entry-level cars in South Africa, and whether any improvements are being made.