Road safety expert Mohamed Sheta weighs in with his auto safety feature priorities
By Ibrahim El-Shakankiry
Mohamed Sheta, the editor and publisher of Auto Arabia and a long-time road safety activist, has been involved with automobiles since 1992, when as a high school student he worked with the Pharaoh’s Rally organizational team. Since then, he has been testing and reviewing cars for local and international publications, and also competing in motor sports and racing series such as the Drift Challenge or the New Beetle Cup. In an exclusive Egypt Today interview, Sheta shares his insight on the most important car safety features in the market. Edited excerpts:
What kind of car safety features should you look for when buying a car in Egypt?
Anybody planning to buy a new or used car in Egypt (or anywhere else in the world) should make sure that your car would have at least a minimum of four to six airbags, including curtain airbags and side-airbags for the passengers on the front and back seats as well. Some cars currently offered in the markets have up to 10 airbags.
If your new car does not offer Run-Flat-Tires, as most of the new BMW models do, then make sure your new car has a Tire Pressure Sensor or Tire Monitoring System.
The most important active safety feature you should have in your car is the Electronic Stability Program (ESP). According to some studies, those modern ESPs reduce the risk of crashing up to 80%. Some car companies have different names for those electronic stability programs, like Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) or Vehicle Stability Control (VSC).
What is the standard package of safety features for a respectable brand?
In Europe, safety features such as the ESP are already mandatory for all new car models since November 2011. Other important safety features such as the Tire Pressure Monitoring system have also become mandatory in 2014 for all new cars sold in Europe.
The best thing for any Egyptian consumer is to check the safety rating and the European NCAP crash test results for the car model he is potentially buying. I recommend buyers always opt for a car with at least a 5 Stars Euro NCAP rating and European specs if available, such as in the brands of BMW, Mercedes, Volkswagen and Audi. On our website www.autoarabia.org, we always publish the latest crash-test results from the Euro NCAP and the ratings of the latest models in the Egyptian and international markets.
What other safety features could you add?
Some models like the all-new 2014 Mercedes S400 Hybrid and the Volvo S80 and Volvo V40 offer very advanced safety technologies such as the Lane-Assist System, Blind Spot Alert System and most important the City-Emergency-Braking System.
The Lane-Assist System keeps your car in the lane in case you were distracted for a few seconds and keeps the car from hitting the sidewall of the road or even crossing over into oncoming traffic.
The Blind Spot Alert System monitors the car’s blind spots and blind angles behind you and makes sure you receive a visual and acoustic alert in case you try to change lanes when there is a car in your blind spot or rapidly approaching your car from behind.
The City Emergency Braking System is a radar-based braking system, which is monitoring your speed and the distance between your car and the cars or obstacles in front of you. If the system predicts a possible crash it brakes the car automatically — to a complete standstill if necessary. Some systems work on high-speed and others work also on low speed during traffic rush hours.
Are there certain common road or traffic conditions/behaviors here that make certain features especially important here?
I personally consider the Electronic Stability Program the most important safety invention in the past 20 years, when car companies started installing the Anti-Blocking System (ABS, also known as Anti-lock Braking System) as a standard feature in most small and large cars. I strongly recommend and urge the Egyptian government to make ESP mandatory for all locally-assembled and imported passenger cars, light commercial trucks, heavy commercial trucks, the public transportation buses and microbuses as well as in the buses used for tourism transportation. This would reduce the current road fatalities by at least 50%.
What’s the average mark-up for people wanted to add these features on during the car buying process?
In Europe you find most of the small cars featuring those important active and passive safety features, such as ESP and at least four to six airbags, starting from €8,000 (LE 76,000). Those small cars are sold in Egypt for LE 80,000 – 140,000 and unfortunately do not include any of those life-saving features.
Compact cars in Europe with those essential safety features would start at around €15,000 – 20,000 (LE 144,000 – 192,000). In Egypt those compact cars would cost you at least between LE 200,000 – 300,000.
Unfortunately many car companies in Egypt do not care about the safety of their customers, and therefore do not offer those life-saving features in their models in Egypt. Some companies deliberately ask for a ‘low’ safety package and others even ask their headquarters to de-install extremely important safety features like ABS, ESP, Tire Pressure Control and even headrests on the back-seats, in order to increase their profit margin in a very greedy way.
Are there certain types of cars that are safer than others?
The lower the car is, the lower its center of gravity, thus the car would be more stable than cars with a higher ground clearance. This means that a 4×4 or SUV is surely not as stable as a sedan or a sports car. Nevertheless, if the car is equipped with ESP then this active safety feature will increase the stability of the car significantly. Therefore I want to remind you again: Always make sure that the new or used car you plan to buy is equipped with the life-saving ESP. et