New crash standards to make Australian vehicles safer

While modern vehicles are safer than they have ever been, the regulatory bodies that influence these trends aren't resting on their laurels. 

In many cases, this pressure is positive for fleet managers and their drivers, as it forces automotive engineers to improve their designs accordingly. Along with reducing fuel consumption, many engineers worldwide are working out how to make vehicles as safe as possible. 

Recent efforts have seen a notable shift in focus from protecting drivers in a crash, to creating technologies that reduce the chance of an impact ever occurring in the first place.

It's working too. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that the past 30 years of safety evolution has saved almost 8,000 lives in the US alone. So, what's the next step?

Australia sets side-impact crash standards

While accidents of every variety come with their own unique dangers, some can be much more threatening than others. Side-impact collisions can be particularly deadly, as there's less structural protection in a car's doors than in the front of the vehicle, where specially designed crumple zones and the added protection of the engine offer extra security. 

A recent update to Australia's vehicle design safety rules will create important changes. While the introduction of side-impact airbags has added a degree of protection in these instances, Minister for Major Projects Paul Fletcher believes the solution lies in improving the structural qualities of vehicles overall. 

The new Australian regulations are based on United Nations Global Technical Regulation (GTR) 14, a set of criteria which outlines specific guidelines for how vehicles should behave in side impacts. As these accidents account for a significant amount of the trauma faced on the country's roads, it's important that regulations adapt accordingly. 

"Side impacts account for over 20 per cent of Australian road deaths and a disproportionately high number of brain injuries, which carry a huge social cost," Mr Fletcher explained.  

"The new Australian Design Rule is a major road safety initiative aimed at addressing this issue by setting performance criteria that require effective safety measures such as curtain side airbags, thorax airbags and better crash sensors."

ANCAP to adapt to new regulations

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) is supporting the initiative, as side-impact collisions are an important part of the testing process for vehicles that pass through the organisation's facilities.

The organisation stated that it will modify its testing process in 2018 in accordance with the new regulations, ensuring that vehicles new to the country meet the updated standards.