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Safety scheme hailed as crash tests show advances in car design over 20 years

Two family cars have been crash tested to mark the 20th anniversary of a European safety scheme.

A 1997 Rover 100 and a 2017 Honda Jazz were put through a head-on collision at 40mph to demonstrate the advances in safety since the Euro New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP) was launched in February 1997.

Former Formula One boss Max Mosley, the first chairman of Euro NCAP, said "thousands of fatalities" have been prevented as a result of its introduction.

The Rover had no airbags to protect c rash test dummies in its passenger seats during the test, which destroyed the front of the vehicle.

The model was given a one-star rating when it was first tested 20 years ago, and was withdrawn from sale just months later.

There was much less damage to the modern Honda, which had airbags deployed throughout the interior of the car. It was rated five stars for safety.

Thatcham Research, which hosts the UK's only Euro NCAP testing facility in Thatcham, Berkshire, said safety improvements fuelled by rigorous testing have delivered a 63% reduction in the number of car occupants killed or seriously injured each year, from 23,000 in 1997 to 8,500 in 2015.

Over the same period the number of pedestrians and cyclists killed or seriously injured annually has fallen by 41%, from 14,500 to 8,500.

Manufacturers initially opposed Euro NCAP, claiming it was too strict and that no car could ever achieve a four-star rating.

Today nine out of 10 cars sold in Europe hold a Euro NCAP rating.

Mr Mosley said: "Twenty years on from what started as a controversial programme, rejected by manufacturers and supposedly aiming for unrealistic safety standards, Euro NCAP is now firmly part of the automotive mainstream.

"Thousands of fatalities have been prevented, consumer demand for safety is high, manufacturers compete on safety rating results and vehicle safety standards continue to improve."

AA president Edmund King recalled his horror at witnessing a Rover 100 being tested 20 years ago.

He told the Press Association: "These tests were dramatic. The Rover 100 was described as having improved safety features - it had side impact bars and an optional driver airbag - but my first sight of the car after the frontal crash test made me shake and feel sick.

"Even today looking at the pictures of the half-squashed Rover makes me feel uneasy."

Mr King said the introduction of Euro NCAP has led to safety improvements as significant as those brought about by seatbelts and breathalysers.

Thatcham Research chief executive Peter Shaw called for future safety improvements to be aimed at avoiding crashes, such as automated emergency braking to be fitted as standard on all UK cars.

He said: "The focus now is all about crash prevention, making sure that Britain's roads continue to become even safer, not just for car occupants but for every road user.

"We have come a long way since the days when manufacturers met only the most basic, mandatory safety requirements but we must continue to apply pressure."

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