Fleet News

Used sellers should make more of safety

'ROAD safety and accident prevention may sometimes be background issues but that does not mean they are not relevant to us all. I was reminded of this by the recent phone call telling me my daughter was on the way to hospital after crashing her car.

Although she is well, the car has been written off and when I went to retrieve her personal belongings it came as a surprise to see that there was apparently not very much damage at all. The roof was bent and the side heavily dented, but those are not the reasons for the write-off.

What made the car 'uneconomical to repair' was the deployment of the side airbags. Research revealed that the replacement of a side airbag costs around £700 on average. But the cost of safety is justified by recently-published EU figures on road fatalities which reveal a big improvement in the survivability of accidents.

In 1991, 4,753 deaths were recorded on UK roads. By 2001 this had fallen to 3,598.

The European figure fell over the same period from 56,027 deaths to 39,864. These reductions are attributed largely to better systems and safety in the car, rather than improvements in driving skills.

For the fleet manager, who has to sort out all these additional problems and the potential costs involved in an accident, this represents a challenging issue. As one-use-only safety technology increases in cars, so does the cost of accidents, although the benefit in lives saved surely justifies this.

In the used car market, safety seems to come further down the list of priorities than it does for new cars. Certainly this is reflected in the marketing of safety features on new cars and the emphasis on other factors for used vehicles. Upfront cost, image and fuel economy rule the roost for buyers in the used market.

Surely it is common sense to consider more point-of-sale promotion of multiple airbag and other restraint systems along with the traditional air conditioning, central locking, power steering and CD players. Markets determine their own levels so it is not possible to argue that car safety features should or should not add to residual values.

Yet it seems common sense to expect that if safety were to be brought more to prominence along with all other attributes, then we could see values adjusting to become based on protection of passengers and pedestrians, as well as luxury and economy. It is time for the used car industry to shout more loudly on this issue.

Reg plate double standards

A few weeks ago I commented on the prevalence of illegally laid out registration plates. This is a genuine problem, given that speed cameras can be fooled by a misleading array of numbers, letters and bolts. How ironic then that an announcement came last week from the DVLA that B347 LES is on offer as an exclusive registration.

How this could possibly read appropriately for any Beatles fan without some tampering is beyond me or anybody I have discussed it with. This is surely a case of double standards from a Government body which professes to hold up the letter of the law, while dangling the temptation of bending it for the sake of additional revenue.

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