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ESC - mandatory at last?

We’ve been telling you of the benefits of electronic stability control (ESC) since 2006. ESC applies brakes to individual wheels to straighten out a skidding car. We’re so convinced of its benefits that we’ve been asking for it to be made mandatory since 2008.

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Meanwhile, across the ditch, the Aussies have got on with the job. Legislation was introduced in 2009 requiring “mandatory fitting of ESC to passenger cars and SUVs from November 2011 (for new models) and November 2013 (for all vehicles).”

Finally, our NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) has proposed it should be mandatory for all light vehicles. That’s for all new cars, 4WDs, utes and vans by 2015, followed from 2016 by used imports.

Our response is a resounding “yes” – and we’ll be making a submission in support of bringing in ESC.

But we don’t think their proposal goes far enough.

In 2008 we said “All rental cars and campervans should have this feature as soon as possible. Overseas drivers feature too frequently in loss-of-control accidents on our difficult roads.”

Sadly, this hasn’t changed.

There have been several high-profile crashes involving loss of control after drifting left into loose gravel – including the crash near Turangi in 2012 that killed three US students and left another seriously injured.

“Early indications from the scene examination show the vehicle drifted to the left into gravel, then over corrected and the momentum caused the vehicle to roll. It was not yet known why the vehicle drifted left,” said Inspector Kevin Taylor to the The New Zealand Herald on the day of the crash.

This crash is a good illustration of the tragic loss of control accidents ESC has been shown to prevent. NZTA’s own TV commercials show a vehicle going out of control after hitting loose gravel, and then maintaining control in loose gravel with ESC operating.

We say ESC should be immediately made mandatory for all rental vehicles. If you want to make a submission in support of mandatory ESC:

Submissions close on 22 April.

About the author:

Hamish Wilson has been working for Consumer forever. Well, at least longer than most of our staff can remember! He's tested old technology such as video recorders along with a steady stream of the latest washing machines, dishwashers, fridges, TVs and DVD recorders.

It's the variety that keeps him here. There's always new technology to explore, or even to go exploring with. It can be entertaining following directions from car navigation systems through dead end streets.