The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter has always been a pioneer of safety matters. With ABS, airbags and seat belt tensioners, Mercedes has been at the forefront of driver safety, and its record-breaking, multi-award-winning Sprinter van is often among the first vehicles to get such technology fitted. The latest generation of Sprinter is no stranger to innovative safety technology, with radar-based distance monitoring to prevent rear-end collisions, active brake assist to increase the pressure on the brakes when necessary to ensure the vehicle stops in time, and attention assist, which monitors more than 70 parameters to ensure the driver is alert and fit to drive. There are numerous other systems, from commonplace ESP to newer functions like active lane keeping and crosswind assist, all of which paint the Sprinter as one of the safest vans on the road. When it comes to the electric version of the Sprinter, however, that level of safety has improved further still simply by the very nature of the fine art of driving an electric vehicle. 

The Mercedes eSprinter is unlike any other electric van in that it has not only several modes of driving but also numerous levels of regenerative braking. While these might not sound like groundbreaking safety systems, or even safety systems at all, as you might think of them, their presence does create an attitude of safety and careful driving.

With limited range, driving an electric van is all about preserving battery energy, something that requires forethought, planning and in the case of the eSprinter not only careful use of the right foot but also your hands. The eSprinter has several levels of regenerative braking – the same system used in the eVito – controlled using paddles on the steering wheel. Regular D mode gives you standard levels of regenerative braking while the more severe D- increases the regenerative braking. Think carefully and you can plan a short distance ahead and will barely need to use the brake pedal. This encourages planning, increases vision and awareness, and ultimately makes you a safer and better driver – an unexpected consequence of an electric drivetrain, we will admit, but an important one. The D+ and D++ modes (which allow freewheeling using the vehicle’s momentum) only add to the planning and attention a driver must pay, as well as improving the efficiency of the van.

Of all the many safety components – of which there are many – it seems strange to think that we are singling out the electric drivetrain for the accolade. The eSprinter – and Sprinter – could easily win on the conventional safety merits; however, that extra level of engagement, and the enhanced planning a driver must do not only maximise the range of the van, but, to drive it comfortably, makes it all the more safer than anyone would have first imagined.

Highly Commended: Lightfoot

Any product claiming to be as revolutionary as the Fitbit needs to work pretty hard to back up its claims, but Lightfoot is something of a pioneer in in-cab technology and driver behaviour monitoring. Linked directly with the vehicle engine via the OBD II port, the dash-mounted device uses lights and optional audio to tell you how efficiently you’re driving, giving live feedback based on engine data that is directly relevant to your vehicle, the way you are driving, and the roads you are driving on.

Not only does it help educate or re-educate drivers, it also acts as a rewards platform to encourage good driving.While Fitbit might be responsible for steps-per-day-based competitions between family, friends or colleagues, Lightfoot offers competitions, prizes, discounts and other incentives to drivers that follow the in-cab coaching. Not only does it help enhance safety, but it also increases engagement and buy-in from the driver through the so-called gamification of their performance, rather than a ‘Big Brother is watching you’ stick and no carrot approach to discipline.