posted 6 months ago

New Cars Involved in 10% Of UK Collisions – But Why?

Over reliance on gadgets, easy access to finance and over-zealous driving might contribute to new car crash rate.

Repairing crashed new cars cost hundreds of millions

Drivers with new, “15” and “65”, registered vehicles account for 10% of collisions between March 2015 and February 2016 leading to repair costs of £402 million, Accident Exchange revealed. But why such a disproportionate percentage? New vehicles, after all, do not account for 10% of Britain's fleet of 36.3 million (June 30th 2015).

Modern vehicles harder to crash than their predecessors

Furthermore, theoretically new vehicles are the least likely to crash thanks to modern safety systems. Many have automatic emergency braking, for example. Its purpose is to scan the road ahead for hazards then – if motorists fail to respond to (say) slowing traffic – warn them via a tone then, if required, to brake.

Automatic emergency braking is only one of numerous, easily available, safety systems. Others include: lane departure warning (with auto correction), stability control, fatigue warning, parking sensors and multiple cameras. Crashing a car has never been harder.

Crashing new cars

UK road casualty figures

Despite this, 196,000 motorists in new vehicles had a serious or minor collision between March 2015 and February 2016. 32% of impacts – that typically cost £2,050 to fix - happened within 2 months of registration. The 57th day most often proved problematic.

The 2015/16 Department for Transport casualty figures have not been finalised, but there are estimates that include motorists in new cars. Between July and September 2015 inclusive, 6,290 people were killed or seriously injured on UK roads. 42,640 were slightly hurt. 

Design & human psychology might contribute to new car crash rate

Reasons that might explain the high collision rate include over reliance on technology. Drivers recognise that modern cars incorporate the vast range of safety systems as previously highlighted so perhaps, consciously or not, take too may liberties. 

Consider the potential psychological impact of automatic emergency braking, for example. Irresponsible motorists might conclude that it enables them to pay less attention as there is a back-up. But such systems are never fool proof and cannot avoid every collision. 

Crashing new cars

Furthermore, modern cars isolate motorists from their surrounds so they lose a sense of speed. Consider, for comparison, cars of thirty years ago. They are considerably louder, bumpier and cruder so forty miles per-hour feels quicker than in their new successors.

Perhaps a more generous interpretation is that motorists struggle to acclimatise. After all, vehicles each have their own handling, ride, braking and performance characteristics that have to be mastered. Physical size and any blind spots might also play a role.

Plus, of course, motorists might try to find out what new vehicles are capable of by testing the handling, performance, etc. In some cases, this exploratory driving style increases the risk of collision. Some might also be tempted to show off to their friends. 

Alternatively, technology in the cabin might be distracting. It is increasingly common to have satellite navigation, mobile phone integration, music streaming, televisions, etc. – all of which draw the eye and complicate dashboards. What a contrast to old vehicles.

Easy access to finance might make vehicles feel disposable

How vehicles are financed might be a factor too. The Finance and Leasing Association – the trade body for the asset, consumer and motor finance sectors – said that 80% of private new car registrations were funded by members, in 2015. That is significant.

Crashing new cars

This 80% suggests that new vehicles are far easier to obtain than in the past. Finance has also evolved to be flexible. Personal Contract Plans (PCPs), for example, provide vehicles for a set period. At the conclusion either return and walk away, return and start a new PCP, or make a pre-agreed payment to purchase outright.

Philologically, the fact that vehicles can be easily obtained and replaced within a few years could have an impact. It might facilitate less conscientious behaviour on the road as there is less sense of pride and ownership. In contrast – as in the past – those that have to save to buy cars are more likely to be cautious.

Motorists that crash new cars have traumatic experiences

Motorists in the United Kingdom that crashed in new vehicles between March 2015 and February 2016 faced a range of consequences, Accident Exchange suggested. Scott Hamilton-Cooper, Director of Operations, commented: “Any accident is a traumatic and emotional experience for the driver and passengers, but this increases for those driving brand new vehicles that usually cost a lot of money.”

Crashing new cars

He continued: “Buying a new car is a big deal; the old adage that it’s the second largest purchase most people will make after a home still rings true.” Accident Exchange added that irrespective of vehicle age, most people sell within six months of their collision. 

New car registrations hit record high in 2015

In 2015, a record 2,633,503 cars were registered in the UK, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said (+6.3%). This eclipsed the previous best of 2,579,050 in 2003. It was also only the fourth time registrations topped 2.5 million throughout a year. 

The Ford Fiesta was the best selling new car and 133,434 found homes. This supermini was followed by the: Vauxhall Corsa (92,077), Ford Focus (83,816), Volkswagen Golf (73,409), Nissan Qashqai (60,814), Volkswagen Polo (54,900), Vauxhall Astra (52,703), Audi A3 (47,653), MINI Hatchback (47,076) and the Vauxhall Mokka (45,399).

Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders Chief Executive, Mike Hawes, said: “The new car market defied expectations in 2015, hitting an all time record driven by strong consumer and business confidence.” He explained: “Buyers took advantage of attractive finance deals and low inflation to secure some of the most innovative, high tech and fuel efficient vehicles ever produced.”