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MUARC calls on industry and government to fast-track new-vehicle safety systems
2 Dec 2005
THE head of the Monash University Accident Research Centre, Professor Ian Johnston, has urged government and the car industry to do more about fast-tracking new safety technologies into vehicles.
Speaking at a road safety forum in Melbourne last week, Professor Johnston said the Victorian government in particular, as one of the state’s biggest fleet buyers, could be including proven safety systems in its vehicles such as electronic stability control (ESP), but was failing to do so.
He said that if the government mandated such systems they would then flow into the used-car market more quickly when the fleet vehicles were turned over.
"Considering they turn over their cars every couple of years, there is a very rapid lead into the market," he said. "Now, that hasn’t happened yet.
"At the same time, the industry is not doing all it can to promote these technologies into the market."The forum also heard that the government would not commit to rebates for car buyers who include the latest-generation safety equipment in their cars.
This is despite strong evidence worldwide that ESP and related electronic systems save lives.
The news came as Bosch, one of the world’s leading original equipment makers of active and passive safety systems, released details of its next-generation ESP systems that it will roll out over the next four years.
Bosch estimates that currently only about 10 per cent of Australian cars offer ESP.
The Transport Accident Commission’s general manager of road safety, David Healy, told the forum that the TAC had been looking at incentives and other waysof educating young drivers about the value of systems such as stability control, but as yet no decision had been made on things as specific as registration or insurance rebates.
"I certainly cannot commit to insurance rebates," he said. Mr Healy said that although it was an issue the TAC supported, as yet there was no government policy on the matter.
"I agree it’s an issue we need to come to terms with," he said. "It makes sense because correctly targeting incentives can generate considerable community benefit."He believes market forces will also drive the push for inclusion of newer safety systems in cars.
"The challenge is to generate demand for these technologies," he said.
Mr Healy said the next phase was to look at ways "we can provide incentives both to industry to produce such vehicles at a reasonable cost and also look specifically at ways we can up the ante in terms of consumer interest in safety".
According to TAC figures, in Victoria one person is killed each day and 46 people are injured because of a road accident. Every four days, someone suffers a debilitating brain injury, while every 17 days someone suffers quadriplegiaor paraplegia.
Mr Healy said road trauma was a global problem, not just isolated to Australia.
"By 2020 road trauma will be the third leading cause of death worldwide, from its current position of 11th," he said, quoting World Health Organisation figures.
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