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Britain worse than Eastern Europe for car safety system

A SAFETY system which helps avoid accidents is fitted as standard in fewer new cars sold in the UK than in parts of eastern Europe, new figures show.

The anti-skidding Electronic Stability Control (ESC) device is standard in 55% of new cars in the UK compared to 65% in Latvia and Lithuania. The RAC Foundation, which is calling for such equipment to be fitted as standard, said the UK was the fifth-worst of 30 European countries in fitting the device. ESC costs an average of £400 ($794) as an optional extra, but it is not available in nearly one in four vehicles sold in Britain. It is estimated that 400 lives and 3,000 serious injuries a year would be saved if ESC was fitted to 90% of vehicles. There is particular concern that just 8% of superminis, favored by young drivers, have ESC as standard.

Edmund King, the executive director of the RAC Foundation, said: „We are particularly concerned that ESC is not available in over half of all superminis bought in the UK. These smaller cars tend to be bought by the more vulnerable younger drivers, who arguably need this protection most.” The RAC Foundation said ESC could cut crashes by a fifth, especially in wet or icy conditions. The system helps drivers maintain control of their vehicles when, say, they have misjudged a corner or suddenly swerved to avoid an obstacle. If a deviation from the intended course is detected, the control unit applies a small amount of braking to whichever wheel is needed to help stabilize the course of the vehicle. ESC reacts faster than the best driver, and some systems also adjust the power output of the engine to help further. The European Commission is understood to be planning to make ESC compulsory in new vehicles, but is encountering resistance from some car manufacturers.

Audi, BMW and Lexus already fit ESC or equivalent systems to all their models sold in Britain as standard. Other companies offer it as an optional extra, but it is not available in any models sold by makers such as Daihatsu, Proton and Suzuki, according to Thatcham, the motor insurance repair research centre. Denmark is top in Europe, with 76% of new cars having ESC as standard, followed by Sweden and Germany. Only the Netherlands, Greece, Malta and Ireland are worse than Britain. (