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  • Writer's pictureGaurav Chakraborty

Why NCAP ratings are important?

With the growing number of vehicles on the road and an increase in accidents which can be life-threatening the need for an organization that works on automobile safety is necessary. The Global-NCAP is one such organization which deals with crash-testing vehicles sold in a country and provide it with a safety rating depending on its performance.

Back in 2014, the Global-NCAP released the results of the very first crash tests on five made-in-India and made-for-India cars which made headlines nationwide and brought the topic of automotive safety to the fore. The results were a wake-up call for all manufacturers and they have been progressing since.

Crash test programs provide results that show, in the event of a crash, how safe vehicles are likely to be. Overall safety ratings are awarded based on simulation of what would happen to passengers, other road users as well as pedestrians involved in accidents as a result of serious front or side impacts, and these are relatively compared to other vehicles of similar size and weight. The test is carried out by placing the human-size dummy in the seat which replicates the passengers traveling in the vehicle.

In general, the following points are mainly checked

  • Structural Soundness: The structural build and integrity of a vehicle is always the first safety feature to be considered. In the event of a crash, this is expected to absorb and dissipate the crash energy. The energy is absorbed due to the presence of crumple-zones which prevents the physical shock to the driver by crumpling itself. Apart from crumple-zones, even the strength of the pillars are tested for mainly the A-pillar. The pillars are what saves the passengers in case of a roll-over or if the vehicle lands all the way on its roof. Overall its the platform which becomes the deciding factor if the vehicle is stable/unstable.

  • Seat belts: Seat belts are used to secure occupants of a vehicle securely in anticipation of a crash. The technology of three-point seatbelt with pre-tensioners plays a major role in the event of a crash. Companies have started to replace the lap-over seatbelt too with a proper three-point belt.

  • Airbags: In the event of a crash the airbags deploy and inflate rapidly on impact in order to protect the occupants of a vehicle. When deployed effectively in the event of a collision, airbags significantly reduce the chances of serious injury or even death as it reduces the chance of hard impact of the head against the steering wheel. Some vehicles have their airbags connected to the seatbelt set up making it mandatory to wear seatbelts. Well, how important are airbags? Volkswagen India pull plug on the non-airbag variant of the Polo after it scored zero stars in the NCAP crash tests. Later on, the dual front airbags raised its rating to good 4/5 (Germans I say you).

Apart from all these, features like ABS (anti-lock braking system), EBD (electronic brakeforce distribution), ESP (electronic stability program), ISOFIX mounts etc, help the vehicle gain points on safety ratings.

While some companies make great affordable cars with great mileage claims with great re-sale values they tend to compromise on the safety of the vehicle thus making them dangerous in the event of a crash. Here is where the NCAP results matter. When buying a vehicle apart from cost and mileage, do also look at the safety provided by the vehicle. Do check out if the company sends their vehicles for crash-test assessment to NCAP's.

Some companies have received high levels of criticism after the vehicle sold India fails the crash test with structural damages where-as the European variants pass with flying colors with further stricter regulations only proving double standards of these companies. This event surely gave the owners and manufacturers of such companies a heart-attack.

This system may seem flawed but the idea is to get customers the safest possible car based on the average speeding power in a given region. The minimum safety requirements in the USA, Europe, or Japan are more stringent than they are in India because applying the same criteria here would make vehicles unaffordable for the common man. Only scientific tests can determine the strength of a car’s structure, The measure of sheet metal thickness and the re-assuring thud upon closing doors doesn't mean anything. The kerb weight of vehicles doesn't mean much in a well-designed vehicle with an ample amount of R&D spent behind its choice of material and platform.

Although on paper, the series of tests may appear to cover a comprehensive range of scenarios but, each test is conducted only at one set speed using a specific barrier to crash into. The forces and impact load distribution in a crash is very different than what occurs at 75kmph verses one at 65kmph that's the reason speed limits are set up in countries.

From a road safety POV, vehicles with the highest safety and security standards – active and passive – should be purchased as in an event of a crash the passenger in a 5 star rated car may survive over the one in a crash-test failed or two-star rated vehicle which ends up looking like a mangled tin. This doesn't mean that if one owns a 5-star rated car he wouldn't die in that car accident, neither does it mean if one owns a 5-star rater car he doesn't require wearing a seatbelt.

Certainly, modern cars have become are lighter in weight than classic cars but, they have also become safer than ever before thanks to the engineers for realizing the need for usage of a combination of various metals in various ratios like Aluminium, HSS (High Strength Steel), UHSS (Ultra High Strength Steel), Carbon-Manganese, etc.

Thankfully in India, few manufacturers have realized the need for safer cars and are delivering such 4 star and 5 star rated products making them a better buy. Congratulations and Thank you Mahindra got providing us with India's safest car 'XUV300' and Thank you TATA motors for starting the 5-star safety trend with TATA NEXON and having a complete lineup of safer cars. Hence buy a safe car for you and your family.

The government should accordingly mandate the sale of vehicles that has an acceptable safety rating, also hold various awareness camps to make people realize the need for safer cars as the Indian automobile market is 'NOT' a dumping market of unsafe and unreliable products claiming out-of-the-world mileage figures at attractive price range and fancy launches with large flimsy 'touch-screen'.

Here is the list of vehicles tested by Global-NCAP: #safercarsforIndia

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