Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Vehicle Stability Control to become mandatory in Canada

OTTAWA -- Cars, pickup trucks and minivans manufactured in Canada are about to get a bit more expensive but a lot safer.

The federal government gave notice this weekend that it plans to introduce a new safety requirement for thousands of vehicles on Canadian roads.

Under its proposal, all light-duty vehicles under 4,536 kg manufactured in this country starting in September 2011 will have to be equipped with an electronic stability control (ESC) system.

But while the government estimates the hi-tech device could cost automakers up to $525 per vehicle, they say it will pay off in fewer people hurt or killed.

If ESC systems had been mandatory in 2006, the government estimates 225 fewer Canadians would have died in traffic accidents and 755 fewer would have been seriously injured.

"Our government recognizes that electronic stability control technology saves lives," Transport Minister John Baird said in a statement. "This safety feature is already available on many new models and it goes hand in hand with increasing the safety of Canadians and improving the quality of life for drivers and their passengers."

The ESC systems help drivers maintain control in emergency manoeuvres such as swerving, braking suddenly or cornering on slippery surfaces. When sensors detect the car beginning to skid, it adjusts brakes or engine power to help get the vehicle back in control.


The U.S. is already phasing it in and new vehicles will be required to have it by September 2011, the same time the Canadian regulations take effect. If Canada doesn't match U.S. regulations, it could hurt exports of Canadian-made vehicles, officials warn.

The government estimates it will cost automakers $175 per vehicle already equipped with ABS brakes and $525 per vehicle without ABS.

In 2006, 18% of the 1.6 million vehicles sold in Canada already had ESC systems as a standard feature. Another 60% came with ABS brakes, and 22% didn't have ESC or ABS as standard equipment.

The systems may have to be turned off in some driving conditions such as mud or deep snow or when driving with a compact spare tire or with tire chains.

However, Transport Canada says the device makes a big difference. Canadian crash test studies show ESC systems can prevent 29% of accidents. U.S. officials estimate they reduce fatal or serious crashes by 43%.

Canadians have until May 28 to tell Transport Canada what they think before the changes are adopted.

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