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18 June 2007 PR 07/83

Loughborough University research shows ESC technology could cut UK road deaths by up to a quarter

New research by Loughborough University has found vehicles equipped with Electronic Stability Control (ESC) are 25 percent less likely to be involved in a fatal accident than those without it. If every vehicle on the road were fitted with ESC, this would equate to approximately 380 fewer fatal accidents each year.

Commissioned by the Department for Transport (DfT), the research was carried out by the University’s Vehicle Safety Research Centre. It found that ESC was especially effective in helping to prevent crashes that involved a vehicle skidding or overturning, with the potential to reduce serious accidents like this by up to 59 percent. As well as this, it concluded that ESC could offer additional benefits in adverse road conditions such as wet or snowy weather.

ESC is a computer-controlled technology which automatically controls the vehicle by comparing the driver’s steering and braking actions to what is actually happening. On-board sensors measure the speed, steering wheel angle, direction of travel and lateral acceleration of the vehicle. If the calculated path of travel is different to that dictated by the sensors it will make a correction by applying individual brakes to correct the deviation.

Studies from various countries have already shown it to be very effective at reducing accidents, but the Loughborough study is the first to specifically analyse UK roads. The research was released today (Monday 18 June) by the DfT at the Enhanced Safety of Vehicles Conference.

Pete Thomas, Professor of Road and Vehicle Safety at Loughborough said: “The UK ranks 21 out of 27 in the number of new cars fitted with ESC in EU Member States. We would now like to see manufacturers fitting this safety technology to all new cars.”

Speaking at the conference Road Safety Minister Dr Stephen Ladyman said: “Today’s research proves what a powerful tool ESC could be in saving lives. I urge anyone thinking of buying a new car to consider the safety benefits that ESC could bring. Ask the vendor if it comes as standard and, if not, investigate whether it could be fitted as an option. I also call on manufacturers to fit this important piece of kit as standard more widely – it’s not expensive and has the potential to make our roads significantly safer.”


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Notes for editors:

1. The VSRC was commissioned by DfT to carry out a statistical study of UK national injury accident data to ascertain whether there is any difference in crash involvement between passenger cars with and without ESC systems. The analysis excluded accidents involving vulnerable road users (VRU) as injuries to this group dominate the severity of accidents which would otherwise be minor accidents, and ESC is unlikely to be of benefit in such accidents which are typically at relatively low speeds in urban areas.

2. A summary of the results is given below:

Accident severity reduction in non-VRU accidents if ESC is fitted*

  (%) (n)
Fatal 25 383
Serious 11 1,102
Slight 6 6,315
All 7 7,800

* assuming all vehicles are fitted with ESC, as compared with no vehicles being fitted, based on 2005 accident data.

3. This shows that ESC equipped vehicles are involved in 25 percent fewer fatal road accidents where a VRU was not involved, which equates to a theoretical maximum reduction of 383 fatal accidents, based on 2005 accident figures (relating this to the total number of accidents in 2005 would result in a 16 percent reduction).

4. These figures represent the reductions expected with 100 percent fitment compared to no fitment. However, around 10 percent of vehicles are already equipped and it would take many years to achieve close to 100 percent fitment even if ESC was to be mandated. Nonetheless, for each person who drives an ESC equipped vehicle, their risk of being involved in a fatal accident is reduced by 25 percent, which should be an incentive for vehicle purchasers.

5. Estimates of the effect of ESC in serious accidents according to weather conditions show that the greatest effect would be expected in situations where a loss of control might be expected, such as for wet or snowy roads (22 percent or 30 percent reduction, respectively). The research also shows a particularly high effectiveness for reducing serious accidents involving other loss of control situations such as skidding (33 percent), and rollover (59 percent).

7. Full details of the report can be found on the DFT website at http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/roads/vehicles/vssafety/safetyresearch/esc

8. ESC Awareness Campaign
The EC has joined forces with EuroNCAP and FIA and launched on 8 May a Europe-wide ‘Choose ESC!’ awareness campaign. The UK supports this campaign and is considering how the benefits of ESC can be promoted in the UK. More information about this campaign can be found at http://www.chooseesc.eu/

9. Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for excellence in teaching and research, strong links with industry and unrivalled sporting achievement.

It is a member of the esteemed 1994 Group – a set of internationally recognised, research-intensive universities – and has a reputation for the relevance of its work. Its degree programmes are highly regarded by professional institutions and businesses, and its graduates are consistently targeted by the UK’s top recruiters.

Loughborough is also the UK’s premier university for sport. It has perhaps the best integrated sports development environment in the world and is home to some of the country’s leading coaches, sports scientists and support staff. It also has the country’s largest concentration of world-class training facilities across a wide range of sports.

In the 2006 National Student Survey, the University gained a top five place, with nine out of

Loughborough’s 23 departments topping their subject tables. Loughborough was also placed 6th in the 2007 Times Good University Guide and was named winner of the 2006 THES award for the UK’s Best Student Experience. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, the University has been awarded five Queen's Anniversary Prizes – an achievement bettered by no other university.

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