Electronic Stability Control

Younger drivers most likely to hit the skids without protection

13 July 2010

Drivers who would most benefit from anti-skid protection are most dismissive of its benefits, an AA survey has found.

Even though Electronic Stability Control (ESC) is regarded as the biggest car safety innovation since the seat belt, with potential to save 250 lives a year in the UK and 4000 across the EU, car showroom staff must take some of the blame for not selling the benefits of this essential safety device.

Take-up of the system in Britain is low, largely because only two out of five drivers know of its existence, says the AA.

An AA/Populus survey of 16,000 AA members in June shows that experience breeds wisdom as only 13-14% of over-55s see anti-skid protection as pointless. This compares with 27-28% of 18-34 year olds – arguably the group that would most benefit because of driving behaviour, work pressure and the need to protect young families.

National Comparisons

Compared to other European countries, fewer Britons are driving cars with ESC. Young families are particularly at risk as according to the latest figures, only 18% of smaller cars were bought with ESC last year compared to 48% in German and 34% in Italy. The small cars being sold without ESC today will also be the cars that the "ESC-blasé" 18 to 34 year olds are buying in the future.

A survey of five European countries shows that the usually safety-savvy British fall behind the Germans, Italians and Poles in being aware of the benefits of ESC, with only around 40% knowing that the system exists. This lack of awareness means that the British are unlikely to choose ESC in their next car, in spite of the huge safety benefits that it can offer. Only a third of Britons would want this innovation against 60% of Germans.

But, if Britons are told that the system does exist, an AA/Populus Survey of almost 16,000 has shown that 80% of respondents would consider it important in making a final choice of cars.


"Buyers of new cars in the UK place much reliance on what we are told by sales staff at garages but it appears that many are not told about ESC. We hope the Choose ESC Campaign campaign will inform UK motorists about the next best safety device since the seat-belt and prompt them to ask for it when they buy a car.

"Other optional extras like fancy wheels, paint schemes and other add-ons may make the car look more flash, but do nothing in a crash," says AA President Edmund King.

About ESC

ESC uses the power of modern computing to allow the car to take action – by braking individual wheels – when it senses the onset of a slide. This sort of braking is particularly effective in cutting skidding, and keeping the car heading in the direction that the driver is intending.

One frequently voiced concern about ESC is that it would make drivers take risks that they wouldn't in a car without the aid. In the AA/Populus survey of nearly 16,000 AA members, 56% thought it would make the roads safer against 17% who thought it would make the roads less safe.

ESC will be compulsory on all new types of vehicles sold in Europe from 1 November 2011, and for all new vehicles from 1 November 2014. But at the moment, lives may be at risk as car showroom staff are not selling the benefits of this essential safety device in the UK

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16 July 2010