Safety in cars has always been a top priority for both car makers and buyers.
However, though safety features have advanced significantly in recent years, the safety regulations in European cars have had significant differences from those in the U.S.
This is owing to many factors, including design and engineering, governmental restrictions, and consumer preferences.
We’ll explore the reasons car buyers see European cars as being safer than American cars in this article, as well as what the American auto industry may learn from its European counterparts.
Table of Contents
1. Advanced Safety Technologies
Both American and European cars have advanced safety systems to protect car passengers in accidents, though in different ways.
A recent study funded by the U.S. Association of Automobile Manufacturers proved this by submitting vehicles that adhere to American safety standards offer greater rollover protection than vehicles made in Europe.
However, cars that adhere to EU safety regulations are less likely to suffer serious injuries in frontal or side collisions than in cars that follow US regulations.
Despite this, most European cars feature excellent safety measures that are frequently more inventive than those available in American cars.
These include safety features that European automakers frequently prioritize in their designs, which is unlike other automakers.
Such as electronic stability control (ESC), automated emergency braking (AEB), lane departure warning (LDW), and adaptive cruise control (ACC).
Contrarily, these safety features have typically been an afterthought or an optional extra in American cars.
Note that certain American vehicles offer advanced safety technologies, though limited.
These include Tesla’s Autopilot system and General Motors’ Super Cruise technology that offers adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance, and automated emergency braking.
Yet, overall, European cars have a higher chance of featuring more advanced safety measures than other automakers, making them safer to drive.
We also have an article on the reasons European cars are so popular, especially in America.
2. More Extensive Crash Testing
European vehicles go through more extensive crash tests than American vehicles, making them safer in the event of an accident.
Compared to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the US, the European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) employs a more comprehensive and rigorous series of tests.
This includes testing the
- Frontal and side-impact collisions
- Whiplash Prevention
- Pedestrian safety, and
- Safety assist features
Euro NCAP also periodically updates its testing procedures and rating system, in order to reflect the most recent advancements in safety technology and research.
In contrast, the NHTSA conducts fewer tests for cars’ safety features and focuses more on frontal and side-impact crashes.
There have also been complaints that the NHTSA has not updated its testing procedures recently, though safety technology has advanced.
3. Strict Safety Regulations
European cars have more sophisticated safety features because they have stricter auto safety laws than the U.S.
The safety laws of the European Union require strict regulations in various areas.
- Occupant protection
- Pedestrian protection, and
- Electronic stability control, among others
For instance, the European Union mandates crash testing for all brand-new automobiles to assess their safety performance under various conditions.
Car buyers can also make knowledgeable decisions about the safety of various cars owing to the public availability of these tests’ published and made-available results.
Though it is now improving, historically speaking, automotive safety rules in the United States have been less strict.
Although NHTSA establishes safety requirements for automobiles marketed in the United States, these requirements are less stringent than those of the EU.
Overall, European cars are safer than their counterparts owing to Europe’s more thorough safety regulations, which also require automakers to use advanced safety technologies and meet stricter safety standards.
Before we continue, would you like to know the differences between American and European cars?
4. Stricter Emissions Standards
The EU has stricter emission restrictions overall, though the US federal emissions regulations are broader to include certain contaminants.
So far, the European Union’s rules on vehicle emissions are among the strictest in the world. It has continued to tighten standards gradually with time.
Contrarily, US emissions regulations have historically been more relaxed. Instead, the US has placed more of an emphasis on controlling pollutants like nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter.
However, the U.S. government has recently imposed stronger restrictions to limit greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks, so this is changing.
Note that various states in the United States have also enacted their own emissions requirements, some of which are more rigorous than the federal laws.
For instance, California has long had higher emissions laws than the rest of the nation, and other states have now adopted regulations that are similar to them.
5. Emphasis on Driver Assistant
Driver Assist systems warn drivers of potential hazards and assist them in avoiding collisions. They can also aid in lowering the possibility of the driver’s mistake, which is a major factor in traffic accidents.
European automakers place a higher priority on driver assistance systems compared to other automakers.
This is owing to the EU’s leadership in the development and use of modern safety and driver-assistant technologies in automobiles.
One of the safety regulations established by the European Union for automobiles includes specifications for driver-assist technologies like
- Automatic emergency braking
- Lane departure warning, and
- Adaptive cruise control
These technologies are to lessen the impact of accidents when they happen and to assist prevent them altogether.
However, despite growing interest in recent years, the United States is behind in adopting several of these technologies.
While several American automakers have created and integrated advanced safety and driver-aid technologies in their cars, they are still not as common as they are in Europe.
Few US automakers offer safety and driver assistant systems on their high-end models. Whereas, few European automakers may offer fewer driver-aid features on their entry-level models.
6. Prioritization of Quality Engineering
Quality engineering entails thorough testing to verify that the car’s systems and components are operating effectively and can survive a variety of driving circumstances.
An example involves conducting crash tests to gauge how well the vehicle can safeguard its occupants in an accident.
In this circumstance, an automobile with good engineering will ensure that the car withstands crash impact and protects its occupants.
Both European and American automakers have made considerable strides in vehicle engineering and technology.
However, European automakers are renowned for placing top priority on quality engineering and safety. Particularly in the fields of performance and luxury automobiles.
Several European automakers are renowned for building premium, expertly constructed vehicles that are renowned for their handling, comfort, and dependability.
However, American automakers are popular for their emphasis on strength and performance, notably in the category of muscle cars and trucks.
In fact, some car critics have reported that American automakers have quality issues with some of their products.
Note that the engineering quality of an automobile might differ significantly depending on the specific make and model. Even when it is a European car.
7. Better Handling and Stability
Cars with better handling and stability are safer to drive. Stable cars can keep their balance and prevent toppling over rapid movements like turning or swerving.
Cars with strong handling will react to inputs predictably to enable the driver to keep control of the vehicle when driving under different conditions.
There are a lot of factors that can affect a car’s overall performance, such as the type of vehicle, the weather, and personal preferences, among others.
However, from research, most European automakers like BMW, Audi, and Porsche are widely renowned for creating vehicles that are frequently acclaimed for their performance and handling.
These companies make significant investments in R&D to provide sophisticated suspension systems, accurate steering, and other technologies that might improve a car’s handling and stability.
Most American automakers, however, are popular for building vehicles that put comfort and power ahead of handling and agility. Examples are Ford, Chevy, and Dodge, among others.
Note that certain American car models also offer great handling and stability, though few.
They include the Chevrolet Corvette and the Dodge Viper. However, would you like to know whether Japanese cars last longer than American or EU cars?
8. Higher-Quality Materials
The materials of a car can affect its safety significantly. Quality materials enhance a car’s capacity to absorb and distribute the energy produced after a collision.
High-strength steel or aluminum, for instance, can assist the automobile in maintaining its shape during a collision, protecting the occupants from being crushed.
High-end materials in cars can also lower the risk of injury in crashes with better safety features like
- Seat belts, and
- Crumple zones
From research, most European automakers, like BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi, are popular for featuring high-quality components in the exterior and interior of their vehicles.
These companies emphasize luxury in their automobiles, thus the quality of their make.
American automakers, however, have a solid reputation for affordability and reliability. Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler employ more useful materials like cloth upholstery and plastic trim, which are more affordable in their vehicles.
However, American automakers have made substantial improvements to the quality of the materials used in their vehicles in recent years to increase their competitiveness in the global market.
American companies like Ford and General Motors, for example, have made significant investments in quality research and development over the years.
Note that certain American companies are also renowned for the high-end materials in their luxurious vehicles, while certain European automakers could employ inferior components in their entry-level cars.
9. Speed Limiter Feature
The speed limiter is a safety feature that is more prevalent in new European cars than in American cars. Speed limiters are features that keep a vehicle from exceeding a fixed speed.
They usually set at or just above the speed limit. This safety measure is to stop mishaps brought on by excessive speed.
According to the EU, all new vehicles sold after 2022 must-have speed limiters. In contrast, the United States currently has no federal laws requiring speed limiters in vehicles.
Though limited to new car manufacturers launched in the EU, the EU mandated they must feature intelligent speed assistant technology.
The technology, Intelligent Speed Adaptation (ISA), informs, forewarns, and dissuades the driver from exceeding the local speed limit.
This technology uses GPS with digital speed limit maps to automatically determine the in-vehicle speed limit based on the posted speed restrictions on the road.
However, by pressing the accelerator harder, drivers can overrule ISA. But, this might change as technology develops.
Instead of a standard feature, some American automakers, otherwise, offer speed limiters as optional, especially in the higher-end car models.
Note that certain states in the US have speed limiter laws if not the feature in cars, especially for commercial trucks or inexperienced drivers. Check out the reasons American cars are not popular in Europe.