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Consumers still prefer wheels and audio over safety | comment

Buyers prefer opting for better wheels and multimedia systems over safety tech.

Safety doesn't sell cars. If it did, there would be no need for governments to mandate the fitment of potentially lifesaving technology on new cars.

Take stability control, which can stop a car from skidding if the driver makes a mistake. It's now standard on every new car but, had the government not mandated its fitment, you can bet that it would still be on the options list for many vehicles and one that not many buyers would tick.

It's a sad fact that given the choice between a set of shiny alloys and better protection for passengers, most will choose the former.

One executive told CarsGuide recently that car companies had to package safety items with upgraded stereos to improve their take-up, such was consumers' indifference.

Which takes us to this week's call by safety advocate ANCAP and the Australian Medical Association for the mandating of autonomous emergency braking (AEB) on all new cars.

The technology, which slams on the brakes if it anticipates a collision, has the potential to save pedestrians and, in its most advanced form, stop driveway toddler tragedies.

AEB is already standard on some models but far too many brands have it as an option

Given that one in seven people killed on our roads is a pedestrian — and experts say a toddler is run over in a driveway once a week — it's a worthwhile proposal.

VicRoads is also trialling similar technology to reduce workplace accidents involving trucks. WorkSafe Australia says that between 2003 and 2012, there were 18 fatalities in workplace incidents involving reversing trucks

AEB is already standard on some models but far too many brands have it as an option or, worse still, have it only on top-of-the-line models. Others have it when the car is travelling forward, but not backwards.

In our three-car comparison this week, the Mazda CX-5 includes the technology in a $1230 optional safety pack with blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. Its autonomous braking works in forward and in reverse, making it the pick of the current crop.

And the take-up rate since it became available in January? Mazda says it's about 5 per cent. Perhaps it should be bundled with premium audio.