Kiwis urged to check vehicle safety ratings


Kiwis are being urged to check the safety rating of their current vehicles, following recent research which shows many vehicle owners in Aotearoa think their cars are safer than they actually are.

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency says the research, undertaken by WSP New Zealand, found about half of all vehicle owners surveyed didn’t know their car’s current safety rating.  Most notably, 86% of people who owned one or two-star safety rated cars either didn’t know the current safety rating of their vehicle, or thought it had a higher rating.

Research Report 705: Getting people out of 1- and 2-star cars

As about 40% of light vehicles on New Zealand roads have a one or two-star safety rating, that means many Kiwis have a potentially dangerous knowledge gap, says Waka Kotahi Senior Manager Road Safety Fabian Marsh.

“Crash analysis data shows people are twice as safe in a five-star vehicle than in a one-star vehicle. This is because vehicles with a high safety rating offer much better protection to their occupants if crashes do occur, and they may also have features which can help prevent crashes from happening in the first place,” Mr Marsh says.

“We know that we need to do more to get more people into safer vehicles, and we also urge every vehicle owner and every person thinking of buying a vehicle to look at the safety ratings on the Government’s Rightcar website.

Rightcar website(external link)

“It’s the best source of reliable and current safety rating and crash avoidance features information for light vehicles in New Zealand. Using it to find the safest car you can afford could save your life, or that of someone you love.” 

Mr Marsh says the WSP research is already helping refine Waka Kotahi’s work to educate people about the importance of safety ratings, safety features and the Rightcar website.

“The report also includes recommendations to be factored into future planning, including for our work with the local motor vehicle industry. They have a key role through both their purchasing decisions and customer interactions, and the research highlights some areas to focus on.

“It’s clear from the research people would be more likely to choose safer vehicles if they had more knowledge, while our own analysis shows there are vehicles with high safety ratings available in most price brackets and categories. Together that’s good news which we can build on,” Mr Marsh says.

Some of the key findings in the research and associated work being done by Waka Kotahi include:

Research finding: 86% of one and two-star vehicle owners didn’t know their current vehicle’s safety rating.

Associated work: Waka Kotahi’s communications and marketing is evolving to include a focus on these customers.

Research finding: Many people have limited knowledge about safety features which help avoid a crash.

Associated work: Waka Kotahi has recently sourced and published more crash avoidance features data on and is working to raise awareness and understanding of these features.

Research finding: While information about vehicles’ safety is readily available in New Zealand, safety is not consumers’ top priority when buying.

Associated work: Waka Kotahi has a continuous focus on educating people about the importance of buying the safest vehicle they can afford and promoting the use of; alongside working with the motor vehicle industry to prioritise safety. The research will help target future work in both areas.