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Australia Moves a Step Closer to Smarter Car Safety

The Australian Transport Council (ATC) today backed a Queensland Government proposal to move towards the ‘next step’ in vehicle safety.

Queensland Minister for Transport and Main Roads Paul Lucas said the ATC had adopted a proposal to undertake a range of initiatives designed to promote the use of electronic stability control (ESC) in Australian motor vehicles.

“We’ve introduced seatbelts and we’ve introduced random breath testing,” Mr Lucas said.

“And electronic stability control has the potential to be just as important for road safety as these two initiates - if not more so.”

ESC helps drivers maintain control of their vehicles and prevent crashes by immediately identifying when the vehicle skids, swerves suddenly or when road conditions change. The vehicle is then automatically stabilised through applying brake pressure or modifying engine power.

Mr Lucas told his fellow transport ministers that overseas studies into the effectiveness of ESC showed a 22% reduction in crashes in Sweden, and Toyota found it reduced single vehicle crashes in Japan by a remarkable 35% and head-on crashes by 30%.

“The benefits in a country like Australia, with its many long, rural roads and highways, could be even greater,” Mr Lucas said.

Mr Lucas said a recent federal/state study of the Bruce Highway noted that on the rural road sections, the predominant fatal and serious injury crash types were ‘run off road’ crashes (45%) and ‘head on’ crashes (15%).

Today’s ATC meeting told their technical liaison group to investigate the feasibility of mandating ESC technology under an Australian design rule, which control the specifications about how our cars are built.

Mr Lucas said ATC also noted the potential benefits in making the technology cheaper and more widely available through public and private sector large fleet buyers adopting a policy of preference for ESC-equipped vehicles when buying their fleets.

“About 30% of car purchases in Australia are by fleet buyers, which shows the muscle they have.”

Ministers also agreed to support a detailed evaluation of the potential accident cost savings as a result of ESC.

“Seat belts and air bags are vital but they don’t prevent crashes, they just reduce the severity of injury.

“ESC can help prevent crashes in the first place, eliminating health and medical issues entirely, and even vehicle damage and repair costs.

“At about $1000, an ESC system would pay for itself even if it prevented a tiny crash, let alone saved the human misery caused by a death or serious injury.

“Surely insurers can also see the savings to them in car crash payouts.”

Mr Lucas said ATC had also approved direct approaches to Australian manufacturers to encourage a much wider availability of ESC in their cars.

“Everyone has a role to play and this is about corporate responsibility as well.

“ATC is also going to examine the feasibility of a promotional campaign to encourage consumers to understand the benefits of ESC and to consider buying those cars that offer the system.”


ESC is currently available on only a small number of the most popular vehicles manufactured in Australia:

* Holden - ESC is standard on Commodore Acclaim sedan,V6 Calais and V6 Adventra models.

* Ford - ESC is standard on all AWD (all wheel drive) Territory, RWD (rear wheel drive) Territory Ghia, Fairmont Ghia, Fairlane G8, Fairlane LTD, Falcon XR6 turbo and Falcon XR8. ESC is optional on other (than Ghia where it is standard) RWD Territory.

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