ESP, the Electronic Stabilization Program, was offered by Volkswagen and AUDI, because predictions showed a high potential for injury mitigation through accident avoidance. This encouraged both companies, to offer ESP for most of their vehicles, beginning with the Audi A2/A3 and VW Golf. Adding ESP would make the vehicles more expensive. The decision to offer ESP was a courageous one, especially in the A2/A3 and Golf segments where price was and is a major consideration for customers. So it was clear that the accident performance of vehicles equipped with ESP had to be very carefully and thoroughly studied by Volkswagen and AUDI accident research teams.
The result of this research exceeded expectations. The accident research teams had to increase their projections with every new study. Today, it can be stated that ESP is the most effective safety measure after the safety belt, even more effective than the airbags.
The main figures are: ESP, provided by Volkswagen and AUDI, can prevent 80% of all skidding accidents. This means that ESP has a high potential to prevent roll-over accidents. There is an additional potential of ESP, because it will change pole-side-impact into pole-frontal-accidents. This is still a dangerous accident, but much less dangerous than pole-side-impacts. If only the avoidance effect of ESP is taken into account, it can be stated from accident experience (not projections) that more than 80% of all skidding accidents can be prevented by ESP. This is a new dimension, if compared with passive safety. While a passive safety measure can prevent injuries, ESP prevents the accident from occurring. The driver does not realize that he just avoided a situation, that might have been fatal without ESP. In Germany, this finding would mean that 35% of all vehicle occupant fatalities could be prevented: Not just reduced to minor injuries, but actually prevented. Secondary effects of injury mitigation, as mentioned before not taken into account. So 35% is a lower limit of the expected effect.
These findings show that the future development of vehicle safety will be driven by accident avoidance much more than by injury mitigation. Rating systems of passenger vehicles should take this into account. Regulation, compliance testing, and rating systems like the different international NCAP organisations should also take this into account.
Accident avoidance is always the better solution. Future development should reflect this widely accepted philisophy. NCAP-ratings should make sure that a „best pick“ is really a best pick based primarily on accident avoidance and not just with respect to injury mitigation.
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