Drivers urged to check to see if their car has ‘life-saving’ SOS button installed

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The SOS, or ‘ecall’ button has actually been mandatory in all new cars since 2018, however the majority of car owners have no idea of its existence, let alone how to operate it, or what it does in the event of an emergency.

Now they are being urged by National Highways to look around their car in order to locate the button.

In the event of a serious incident triggering airbags, vehicle sensors activate the eCall system, which sends the vehicle’s location to a 999 operator.

The system also enables drivers to speak with emergency operators.

Having precise coordinates lets operators direct emergency services to the exact location of the vehicle, meaning help could get there quicker.

The emergency safety feature can also be manually activated by the driver by pressing the eCall system’s SOS button to connect directly to emergency services.

It provides an alternative to using a mobile phone if the occupants don’t have a phone or can’t exit their vehicle, as the system provides the exact location and identity of the vehicle.

By the end of 2025, over 12.6 million cars and vans are expected to feature the emergency call (eCall) system.

Yet many drivers aren’t aware of this potentially lifesaving technology or how to use it.

The system is automatically triggered in an accident while the SOS button is typically found near the top of the windscreen or on the steering wheel.

However, in a survey from March 2021, National Highways found that many drivers were unaware that the emergency call system and its eCall SOS button existed.

Vehicle occupants were also using the system for non-emergency calls, which is not its intended purpose.

National Highways is working with others in the industry to promote this safety feature, which has already seen an increase in the correct use of the eCall system of connected emergency services calls from 22 percent in 2020 to 59 percent in 2022.

Using the SOS button means that the 999 operators automatically receive your vehicle details including your location and direction of travel.

Through your vehicle’s speaker system, they will then ask for further information to establish the nature of the emergency.

You can also use this system to report a hazard on the road or a vehicle travelling in the wrong direction.

If you are involved in an incident that triggers your air-bags or other safety sensors, your vehicle sensors will automatically activate the on-board emergency call (eCall) system and send your vehicle details including your location and direction of travel when contacting a 999 operator.

The 999 operators will use your vehicle’s built-in safety feature to speak to you, and ask for further information to respond quickly and appropriately, the Manchester Evening News reported.

Mel Clarke, Customer Services Director at National Highways, said: “Safety is our priority at National Highways.

“The emergency call (eCall) system and its SOS button could save lives and revolutionise road incident response on the roads, yet our research shows that most people do not know about it.

“I urge drivers to check if they have this safety feature installed, particularly if your vehicle was manufactured since April 2018, and to follow our advice about how and when to use it.”

All new types of passenger cars and vans built since April 2018 have eCall fitted as standard.

Use the SOS button to summon help if you:

Have stopped in a live traffic lane (or see someone else stopped in a live lane)
are not able to exit your car safely
Can see someone else needing emergency help, such as a broken down vehicle blocking a lane
Are experiencing a medical emergency
Are in a dangerous/vulnerable location

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