Chris Hanson-Abbott, the 80-year-old world pioneer in vehicle safety, who fought tooth and nail to bring the reversing alarm to the UK and Europe, has been presented by the Queen with an OBE for Services to Vehicle Road Safety.
Chris, the chairman and chief executive of Brigade Electronics – the market leader in vehicle movement safety systems – originally pioneered a one-man crusade to get the reversing alarm to market, battling with road safety “experts”, the “green” lobby and the Department of Transport who told everybody it was “illegal”
Since Chris introduced the reversing alarm in 1976 it has been credited with saving countless lives. Shocking statistics from the Health & Safety Executive revealed that before its introduction 25% of deaths involving vehicles resulted from reversing and that over 40% of those fatalities could have been prevented if reversing beepers had been used.
After collecting his honour at Buckingham Palace Chris, who still works five days a week promoting vehicle movement road safety, said: “I was delighted to accept the OBE from Her Majesty for Services Vehicle Road Safety. A huge honour it was also testament to the enormous progress that has been made in vehicle safety over the last thirty-eight years.
“Since I began campaigning we have seen a host of innovations – however my mission to make our vehicles safer is far from complete. Many more lives could be saved if only Government would make obligatory the fitment of movement safety systems. Presently, the Health & Safety at Work Act is enforced by the HSE only AFTER a serious accident. That is a reactive approach. I am calling for a proactive approach making fitment of movement safety systems obligatory. Enforcement only AFTER a preventable loss of a life is unacceptable. I am now launching a new campaign to call for the mandatory of safety systems to address all types of Vehicle movement hazard. Cyclist fatalities due to long vehicles turning left could all be prevented with currently available technology. There will always be operators, irresponsible where safety is concerned who will fit nothing voluntarily, only by law.
Over the years Chris has pioneered a host of safety “firsts” including the first radar and ultrasonic reversing aid, the first camera-monitor system to enhance drivers’ blind spots vision, the first real-speech reverse warning and the first wide-angle rear view “Fresnel” lens for buses and motor homes. Further, he invented the first broadband, sound-source locatable, reversing alarm which is now replacing the original tonal alarms which so many complain about.
His latest first” is a 360-degree camera- monitor system that gives drivers a continuous bird’s eye view all around the vehicle.
Chris, who gave up his job as a City shipbroker to champion reversing alarms, was also the driving force behind the 1988 – 1994 National Reverse-in-Safety Campaign which he founded and which had Sir Stirling Moss as its President.
He has one regret….
“I wish my headmaster could have seen me collect my OBE. I was a below-average all-rounder excelling only at rifle-shooting, comic opera and the ukulele! My housemaster added that I was “….not excessively bright, not excessively dim, but very good in the Gilbert & Sullivan!” I think they would have been pleasantly surprised!