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The AA, Nitrous & Bogus Stats

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April 8, 2009
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You may have seen, all over the BBC, that The AA president, Edmund King, has been banging on about Nitrous Oxide (aka NOS) on the premise that “Modified cars ‘could put lives at risk'”.

It seems that Mr King would like to see legislation which would limit the ability of young drivers to carry out modifications to their cars.

He says:

If you then put [young drivers] in a modified car… then accidents are much more likely to happen.

There’s just one problem with that – it’s complete rubbish. You would have thought that an august institution with a history as proud as the AA would have checked their facts before spouting uninformed opinion to the press (why didn’t they just AAsk us?)*.

Because, since modified car insurance is one of the things we know an awful lot about, and since we keep careful records of things like claims and accidents, we actually know the truth. And the truth of the matter is this:

Young drivers of modified cars are on average 20% less likely to have an accident and make a claim than young drivers in cars with a standard specification.

What are the reasons for this – well there are several:

  • Modders are enthusiasts, more knowledgeable about cars than their peers
  • They love their cars and take special care of them.
  • The money spent on their cars is a significant proportion of their income, so they want to protect their investment.
  • Modified car owners have also invested a lot of time in their vehicle – the prospect of doing all that work again in the event of a crash is not what they want.
  • And in doing the modifications, the owners are getting a good understanding of mechanics, and are more likely to spot any maintenance issues too.

So perhaps, rather than calling for a ban, the AA should start campaigning to make modifications compulsory for young drivers – or more seriously for car maintenance to feature more heavily in the driving test. They should, at least, think before alienating many of the most enthusiastic of the motorists whom they claim to represent.

Good old The AA …

You can always rely on them …

*For that matter don’t AA Insurance Services keep their own data on this sort of thing?

4 responses to “The AA, Nitrous & Bogus Stats”

  1. jason says:

    >great report. I’m so amazed. It’s aimed at the Fast and Furious movie coming out. What idiots…the people who cause accidents are poorly educated drivers, unlicensed and uninsured drivers etc.

    Les accidents would happen if there were more police on the road watching out for known trouble makers, druggies etc. Ditch the pointless cameras on straight (pedestrian free )stretches of A roads and get more police out there.

  2. E V King says:

    >I wonder if I can clarify this topic from the horse’s mouth (so as to speak)as I am president of the AA and was interviewed by the BBC.

    The BBC report was instigated by Dan from BBC Radio One Newsbeat. I spoke to the BBC about statistics concerning new and inexperienced drivers.

    The AA line was that in the hands of inexperienced new drivers these modifications could increase the risk of crashes due to limitations of some cars and some drivers. Sadly that fact was tragically shown on BBC Breakfast this morning.
    This is a media summary:

    “Son of viewer was killed in a modified car. David’s friends have released a single to highlight campaign. STUDIO INTERVIEW: EDWINA WARES, MOTHER – he and his friend were racing. He lost control and was killed. His car had a larger engine than it was made with. I had said the nitrous oxide was one step to far. I think the kits should be illegal. It makes cars harder to handle. His friend Katie wrote song and the Council got hold of it and it fronts Denbighshire County Council’s campaign. Speeding does kill.”

    AA does not call for an outright ban of modifications and never have but we have said that such modifications are not suitable for inexperienced drivers.

    The AA is fully committed to improving road safety for new drivers but we don’t knee-jerk to support dranconian restrictions on new drivers advocated by many ie night time curfews, limit to number of passengers, increase in driving test age etc. We advocate practical steps so earlier this year set up the AA Charitable Trust which offers free Drive Smart lessons to new drivers most at risk. Check out for details.

    So come on guys and join the AA on our road to implement sensible polices and training to help new drivers rather than just assume that we are anti young drivers.

    Agree with Jason about more traffic cops to target drug driving rather than more cameras etc

    Thanks for listening and have a great Easter.

    Edmund King, AA president

  3. Anonymous says:

    >Right on! anyone who's into modifying their car will have spent a considerable ammount of time & money on it, and an accident is the last thing they'd want, i cant see many "young drivers" installing nitrous systems as the insurance costs for even low powered standard cars is extremely prohibitive anyway let alone forking out for modified cover on serious performance upgrades like nitrous.

    a block on modifying cars is probably closer than people think with all this EU nonsense going on, look at Belgium etc the modding scene is virtually limited to bodykits and styling cos of restrictions on engine tuning.

  4. Dave Wilson says:

    >@Edmund King.

    Thanks for commenting back.

    The story you mentioned regarding the death of David Wares is indeed a tragedy, and, having lost some well-loved colleagues on the roads, our heartfelt sympathies are with his family and loved ones – but were modifications to blame? If you check the story from BBC Wales and the details in local press reports it seems that the young man and his friend were actually street-racing at 95mph in a 30 limit and his car collided with a fully-laden Punto coming the other way.

    And yet rather than attribute the cause of the accident to any one of:
    * He was racing on the public highway
    * Going more than three times the speed limit
    * Seemingly on the wrong side of the road
    * Over a blind summit

    the true cause is *clearly* that his car had been modified.

    The sad truth is that neither modified cars, nor indeed speed, in themselves, are to blame for any road deaths. That responsibility rests with road users, and in this tragic case a number of poor decisions by the young man and his friend resulted in this accident.

    Like you we are passionate about education as the key to improving road safety – that’s why we’ve supported and put our name behind such schemes from PassPlus, the IAM, Max Driver and RideDrive, not to mention working with county councils Road Safety training schemes in Norfolk, Northamptonshire and Warwickshire. Young drivers who complete these courses can get discounted insurance with reductions of up to 40%. Perhaps you can let me know some more details on what the Smart Drive course covers and I can check whether we could arrange any discount for your participants.

    Thanks again for dropping in.

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