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RACV pushes for ESP

Anti-roll: Volvo's XC90 is one SUV that offers rollover prevention technology.

ESP plea for SUVs gets louder as study reveals a frightening 4WD rollover death rate

General News logo25 Aug 2006

THE RACV has broadened its push for manufacturers to make electronic stability control (ESP) standard in all 4WD wagons after new Australian research released this week revealed a higher death risk in rollovers compared to passenger cars.

Australia’s most comprehensive study into 4WD safety to date found that 4WD motorists were, on average, 3.4 times more likely to die in a rollover than if in a passenger car.

Conducted by the Monash University Accident Research Centre, the 4WD Vehicle Crash Involvement Patterns study examined 660,378 recent crashes.

Along with other major motoring organisations, the RACV has repeatedly called for ESP to be made standard on cars, but the latest research findings have prompted a broader push for the safety device.

Results also indicated that 4WD motorists were significantly more likely to be involved in a rollover crash on high-speed roads with an 80km/h speed limit or higher, compared with car drivers.

It found that although only five per cent of 4WD crashes were rollovers, these constituted about 30 per cent of 4WD fatal and serious injury crashes.

Compact 4WDs were found to be at a slightly lower risk of rollover compared to larger models – possibly reflecting superior handling capability.

RACV chief engineer Michael Case said many 4WDs generally provided similar levels of occupant protection as passenger cars. "But their susceptibility to being involved in rollovers and protection for occupants in these types of crashes is poorer compared with passenger cars," he said.

The research found that young 4WD drivers, particularly those under 30, were shown to be significantly more at risk of being involved in a rollover crash. Mr Case said the disturbing results raised a question about the suitability of such vehicles for younger or less experienced drivers.

"Four-wheel drives have in many ways become an alternative to the family car," he said. "Today, with almost one in five new vehicles sold being a 4WD, we want to ensure they offer the maximum possible protection to their occupants.

"These findings clearly demonstrate the potential for further improvements in 4WD safety, including fitting of ESP technology." Research in the US has shown that ESP has been proven to reduce the risk of a 4WD rollover by up to 80 per cent.

Many luxury 4WDs, like Volvo’s XC90, have rollover mitigation systems while Ford’s Territory has a standard ESP system on its upper-luxury variants.

"RACV wants to see ESP in all cars as standard, but especially in 4WDs, given that these vehicles appear to be more at risk of rollover-type and other loss-of-control crashes," Mr Case said.

Although results showed 4WDs drivers were about five times less likely to die in a head-on collision than the average car driver, they failed to do as well in run-off-road crashes when hitting objects such as trees or poles.

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