Understanding the ANCAP safety ratings

According to the 2011 Work Health and Safety Act, it is the responsibility of a person conducting a business or undertaking to ensure, within reasonable limitations, the health and safety of all workers directly or indirectly engaged in activities influenced by that person.

In simple terms, this means that any fleet manager in Australia has a duty of care towards protecting the safety and wellbeing of all their drivers.

It is therefore important that when you are deciding which cars to purchase to outfit your fleet, that you pay close attention to the safety ratings awarded to the model and the passenger protective features available.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) is Australia's most trusted car reviewer in regards to crash safety. ANCAP awards vehicles a number of stars to indicate an occupant's chances of surviving a crash without serious injuries - five stars indicates the top level of safety.

A great number of vehicles sold in Australia' have been awarded five stars, with 91 per cent of new cars purchased Down Under in 2013 carrying the maximum safety rating.

"Consumers are now spoiled for choice with the number of 5 star models on the market and ANCAP continues to push the boundaries by making it more difficult each year to achieve the top rating," ANCAP Chairman Mr Lauchlan McIntosh said in a March 7 media release.

However, it is important to ensure the vehicles you purchase include all the necessary safety features required to meet the five star standards. For example, the latest version of the Mazda3 was recently awarded the top ANCAP rating but only when the optional airbags were included.

"Head-protecting side airbags for rear seat passengers is now required for five stars, as is a higher score in the pedestrian protection test," Mr McIntosh explained in a February 14 statement.

"The Mazda 3 ticks these boxes yet life-saving technology such as Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) is still only offered as an option on Australian-sold models. In the UK, AEB comes standard."