Stability control: why are Brits not choosing safety?
Road safety can be bought for less than the price of a fancy paint job. So why aren't we - and why are car makers not standardising it?
Toyota issued an interesting clarification last week: it is reinstating the option of VSC stability control on the Aygo, after deleting it for the facelifted 2012 model.
The firm had removed the chance for buyers to take up the cost-option stability control aid to simplify its price lists. Customer demand was “very low”, so the firm felt it could tidy up the range and, in the process, make its Aygo vehicle logistics system that bit simpler.
How low was demand? Just 0.01 per cent of Aygo buyers actually took up VSC stability control. That’s low.
However, consumer groups have spoken up and, in response to their concerns about the Aygo becoming ‘unsafe’, Toyota has reinstated the chance for buyers to take up VSC.
This raises one obvious point. If stability control is recognised by consumer groups as such an important safety aid worthy of damming public statements, and if it has in the past been freely available to choose by Aygo buyers, why are people not choosing it?
In other words, why are Brits ignoring something that will so dramatically improve the safety of their car?
It’s not as if VSC is expensive. The current price list suggests it costs £357. Metallic paint costs £450. Air con costs £500. Next time you’re on the road, see how may Aygos are finished in a metallic hue, or have air con fitted. Price is not the barrier here.
No, understanding is. People simply don’t realise how big a bonus stability control can be, how dramatically it can improve active safety. It basically helps stop cars spinning out of control – since fitting ESP as standard to all its cars, Mercedes reckons its cars are involved in 29 per cent fewer single-vehicle crashes and 15 per cent fewer crashes overall. Other figures support a one-third reduction in accidents.
Stability control does this by individually braking wheels according to a computer-controlled algorithm, to right the wrongs of the driver or the road surface and stabilise control of the car. It brings control to a wayward car more quickly than most drivers could achieve, with near-guaranteed chance of success
Sure, in the early days, such systems could be intrusive or over-eager. This led sporty drivers to call for ESP-off buttons, so they could enjoy their car without the computer nanny intervening and spoiling the fun. It perhaps didn’t help acceptance of stability control in some quarters.
Today’s systems are vastly more sophisticated, though. They are more unobtrusive than ever, only intervening where necessary. Some brands, such as BMW, even allow the threshold to be altered, so a little more wheelspin and rear-end slip is allowed before the computer kicks in. Spoiling the fun is not the issue.
No, the problem with stability control is awareness. The vast majority of people are simply not aware of what stability control does, and how dramatically it can improve on-road safety. This is why so few people choose it, and why Toyota made the obvious decision it could safely delete it.
Campaign groups were right to criticise Toyota’s decision, and should be praised to have achieved a review of the decision. But both groups should consider whether their education programmes on the benefits of stability control are working. If buyers are not taking stability control because they don’t understand it, why is that so?
The media should also step up and tell people how they value stability control. I’m a motoring journalist yet, on a winding road in a powerful car in grotty conditions, I wouldn’t even consider turning the stability control off – and would feel decidedly uneasy driving a car that didn’t have it.
I can drive closer to the limits of a car with stability control on than I’d dare do with it off. Why on earth would I play risk?
Why on earth new car buyers are being allowed to is lost on me, too.
There is one obvious solution. Standardise it on all cars. This is coming in October 2014 (already, all newly-launched cars must feature stability control). It’s not coming soon enough though. Brands are being allowed to sell budget city cars with stability control as an option instead of standard, chipping the list price a bit lower and paying scant regard to the teenagers who’ll be driving these cars in a decade’s time. Teenagers who’d benefit enormously from the helping hand of an electronic aid.
Enough is enough. The technology is there on the shelf, and lives can be saved because of it. Makers such as Toyota shouldn’t be deleting stability control, they should be fitting it as standard, as soon as possible. Don’t force people to make a choice about something they know little about, simply do as with ABS and include it in the price of the car.
The facts on the benefits of stability control speak for themselves and the sooner every new car comes as standard with it, the better for all of us.
I wear a seatbelt every time I am in a car, I have needed it less than a handful of times, none while I have been driving, mix of luck and judgement.
One of those occasions the driver wasn't in a seatbelt and I had to watch as he flew through the windscreen and landed on the road ahead just over a foot from where the other vehicle in the collision came to rest. The accident was not his fault in any way and he did everything possible to avoid it, but it was not using the seatbelt that resulted in his need for hospitalisation.
People who think they will never need safety devices are brainless. As a driver you are at the mercy of other road users, mechanical faults, dodgy road surfaces, spillages and so much more. To assume that you will always be ready for anything is ridiculous. The computer will have nothing else to be concentrating on than what your wheels are doing so having this helping you enables you to simply direct the car out of trouble.
Current family car has an abundance of safety features I like to know there is passive safety, just in case, but absolutely insist on active safety, always better to not be in an accident in the first place.
There are old school drivers who feel that the electronic driver aids are un-necessary nannying. They will be the same morons who refuse to accept modern autos are better at changing gear fast than manuals, and refuse to accept the weakest component of every car is the loose nut behind the steering wheel.
MSN Cars' Steve Walker takes the UK's cheapest new car for a test drive to see if it's worth parting only £5,995 for.
Date 23/05/13, Duration 4:17, Views 863
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