Car Safety Ratings

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Grant Dorrington says "There are cars out on the road now where if someone t-boned you, hit you from the side you are going to die."

They're the death traps you probably don't know you're driving, cars sold without safety features that could save your life. Lauchlan McIntosh says "The risk to ordinary people probably doubles or more between the very poor performing cars and those higher performing cars." Lauchlan McIntosh heads the Australasian New Car Assessment Program.

They crash test vehicles, awarding a safety rating out of five. They say anything less than four stars and you're playing russian roulette on the road. Grant Dorrington says "It is a weapon that you're buying, we all move around, we live in our cars sometimes more than we live at home."

Lauchlan McIntosh says "There's no reason why a fleet owner shouldn't insist on buying only five star cars."

This 2002 model Mitsubishi Triton has a two star rating, and could be deadly in a serious crash. Take a look at the test. The are no airbags. The driver's head slams into the steering wheel; The cabin crushes inwards, potenially trapping the driver and passenger. But what you can't see is the pedals. They've been pushed 22 centimetres inside the cabin, crushing the driver's lower legs and feet. The steering wheel is thrust up and back, into the driver's chest.

The 1999 Ford Courier four wheel drive - also without airbags.

A similar result; unlikely the occupants would survive a serious crash at high speed.

Now see what happens in one of the safer utes; the 2005 Toyota Hilux four wheel drive, with four stars. The airbags inflate, and the cabin stays largely intact, maintaining its structure. That means doors can be easily opened to free the driver and passenger.

Some smaller cars are dangerous too. Drive a Holden Barina made between 2005 and 2007?

Here's the crash test. The driver's head rolls off the airbag; a serious neck injury. The cabin crumples, causing serious leg, foot and chest injuries. Lauchlan McIntosh says "What happens is the cabin, if you like, compresses and the wheel probably comes in and breaks your leg. It will push the pedals against your feet, in a five star car, that doesn't happen."

Five of the best performing family cars were the Audi A4, the Ford Falcon FG, the Holden Caprice, the Toyota Aurion and the Holden Statesman. All have front, side and head airbags, anti-lock brakes, electronic brakeforce distribution and electronic stability control.

Not surprisingly, none of the luxury cars tested rated below five stars. But the experts say don't have to be loaded with cash to give yourself the best chance of surviving a serious crash. Lauchlan McIntosh says "Some years ago safety was only in the most expensive cars, that's no longer the case, you can today buy a five star car at under 20 thousand dollars...People should look to buy, when they go to buy a new car, they should look to buy the safest car they can afford."

"WA is behind the rest of the world on this isn't it? Oh it is, there's no doubt about it." Grant Dorrington from the Road Safety Council says buyers MUST put saftey higher up their list of priorities. "If you went across to Sweden or Germany, countries that are ahead of us, crash rating is something they just abide by, they demand safety ratings on their vehicles, they demand it, it's compulsory, no car can be sold without it, second hand, any car. That's where we've got to get to."

If the Office of Road Safety has its way, you'll notice star ratings at more dealerships around Perth, as sellers are encouraged to push safer models on consumers. "If our community can do this as soon as possible, we're going to save something like two thousand lives in the next 12 years of our road safety strategy."

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