There is a strong need to bring transparency to vehicle safety in South Africa, says consumer journalist Wendy Knowler.
It's been revealed that most vehicle manufacturers apparently take shortcuts in SA when it comes to car safety features, especially budget cars.
Nissan South Africa is one such manufacturer.
This is according to results of a crash test conducted in Germany two months ago by renowned car safety organisation Global NCAP (New Car Assessment Programme).
The Nissan NP300 “Hardbody” bakkie collapsed in a crash test and scored a zero safety rating for adults and two stars for children.
The Hyundai i20, Kia Picanto and Toyota Yaris were also tested. Only the Kia Picanto was found to have a stable body shell.
Nissan South Africa responded claiming that cars meet or exceed regulations in all countries in which they are sold.
Knowler says the minimum legal requirements around safety equipment in SA are low, and so is consumer awareness.
As a result, most manufacturers choose not to equip their “cheaper” vehicles with an anti-skid safety feature known as electronic stability control (ESC).
The ESC is said to be as important as a seatbelt.
Meanwhile, South Africa has one of the highest car-accident fatality rates in the world, with more than 14 000 people were killed on our roads last year.
At the same time, the Automobile Association (AA) says vehicle safety is as important as driver behaviour.
AA spokesperson Layton Beard says consumers should boycott unsafe vehicles and lobby government for stricter safety standards and greater transparency.
Beard adds that consumers should equip themselves with more knowledge and safety awareness.
Most of the budget cars sold in South Africa could not be sold in Europe the US, Australia or Japan because they have too few airbags and lack electronic stability control (ESC), an anti-skid safety feature which is said to have saved as many lives as the seatbelt.— Wendy Knowler, consumer journalist
We don't ask if the car has ESC, because most of us don't know what that is.— Wendy Knowler, consumer journalist
We have low regulation in this country and we have low awareness from the motoring public, so they get away with it.— Wendy Knowler, consumer journalist
The reality is that we [South Africans] are paying more for less safety.— Wendy Knowler, consumer journalist
Being a good driver is important, obeying the rules of the road is important, wearing your seatbelt is important, but being in a safe car is as important as all of those other factors.— Layton Beard, Automobile Association spokesperson
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Image: Nissan website.