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Slide rule

Slippery subject: An AWD Ford Territory and Holden Calais (below) demonstrate the safety benefits of stabilty control systems.

Road safety groups call for compulsory stability control in new vehicles

Ford logo25 Jan 2006

VICTORIAN road safety groups have called for the mandatory adoption of electronic stability control on all new cars in an effort to reduce the road toll.

The call echoes concerns put forward by road safety experts that some car companies were not doing enough to promote the life-saving safety system in theAustralian market.

The road safety groups are now calling on consumer pressure to change the attitudes of manufacturers.

They argue that if all vehicles in Victoria were fitted with stability control, single-vehicle crashes could be reduced by 40 per cent, saving 50 lives a year. Last year, 348 people were killed on Victorian roads.

The RACV’s chief engineer, Michael Case, said many new-car buyers, having become more accustomed to airbags and anti-lock brakes, were still unaware ofthe safety benefits of stability control.

"Many don’t know what it does and that’s compounded by the fact that each manufacturer, although having similar systems, means they have to be adapted to each individual model," he said.

"Then the problem is they have their own name and acronym for it, which they use in their marketing.

"At first glance you’d think they were different systems – (and) that has been confusing consumers."Late last year the head of the Monash University Accident Research Centre, Professor Ian Johnston, urged governments and the car industry to do moreabout fast-tracking new safety technologies into vehicles, particular fleet vehicles.

Currently stability control tends to be limited to high-end luxury vehicles, or at best is available on mainstream cars as an option.

To help make car buyers more aware of the benefits, Victorian road safety experts launched a new interactive campaign yesterday to push the wider adoption of the safety system.

In a world-first, VicRoads, the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) and the RACV, in conjunction with vehicle component manufacturer Bosch, are using a simulator to educate motorists about the safety benefits.

Stability control is an "active" safety feature that helps prevent crashes by stabilising vehicles when they start to skid.

It uses electronic sensors to detect skidding, then reduces engine torque and/or selectively applies brakes to individual wheels to correct the vehicle’s skid. It is particularly effective during sudden evasive manoeuvres.

Bosch, which makes stability control systems for a range of vehicles under the brand acronym ESP (electronic stability program), has been reluctant to reveal the actual cost per unit of its systems.

Where it is offered as an option, many car-makers include it as part of a "safety pack" with a price premium that makes it hard to calculate the actual real cost of the unit, according to Mr Case.

"It’s very hard to know what it actually costs the vehicle manufacturers and only they can answer that," he said.

27 center image"My sense is that if it was built in as standard equipment, it would be relatively cheap. It would be very cost-effective.

"I haven’t heard any comment from either a vehicle manufacturer or Bosch about the volume cost per unit."Despite being a common feature in European and North American cars, stability control is standard in only about 20 per cent of models available in Australia.

Last year, road safety expert, the European NCAP chairman and director of traffic safety for the Swedish Road Administration, Professor Claes Tingvall, singled out Toyota Australia and Ford Australia for not offering the option ofstability control on the new Yaris light car or Ford Focus small car, despite these models being fitted with it as standard in other countries.

According to European studies, stability control can reduce crash-related death and injury because skidding is involved in 60 per cent of fatal crashes and a quarter of personal injury crashes.

Studies in Sweden and Germany have shown an accident reduction of up to 35 per cent on vehicles fitted with stability control. The figures have been echoed in similar surveys in Japan and the United States.

The RACV hopes the campaign will stimulate consumer demand for cars equipped with stability control and increase its adoption rate in popular vehicles such as the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon and Territory.

Without this demand it believes motorists may be forced to wait years for the system to trickle down to cheaper vehicles.

Mr Case said consumers were increasingly aware of the benefits of airbags and anti-lock braking systems but he believed the push for stability controlwas far more important.

“There has been over time a progression of the development of certain safety equipment and its introduction as standard equipment on higher-level models and its progression on to other lower-level models,” he said.

In a broad sense stability control was experiencing a similar evolution, he said. "But we’d like to speed it up."The ESP simulator is on show at Melbourne Central shopping centre until February 2 and will then appear at the Melbourne International Motor Show, which opens on February 9.

Holden currently installs an electronic stability program on its Acclaim and Calais V6 sedans and offers traction control (which is one component of its stability control system) on the Acclaim wagon, other Calais models, the Berlina and its SV6, SV8 and SS sports sedans.

It is unavailable on the base Executive model. Likewise, Ford does not fit its "dynamic stability control" system to its baseline XT model – nor the Futura, Fairmont or XR6 models – but instead restricts it to its XR6T and XR8performance sedans, Fairmont Ghia prestige sedan, its AWD Territory models and the RWD Territory Ghia.

It is listed as an $800 option on other RWD Territory models.

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