Tony O'Kane | Jun 11, 2009

VICTORIA WILL BECOME the first state in Australia to make stability control a compulsory standard feature on all new passenger cars and light commercial vehicles sold from January 2011 onwards, a move that the state government says will drastically lower the road toll.

The Victorian Government is proposing an amendment to Victoria's road safety legislation to make electronic stability control (ESC) mandatory for all passenger vehicles weighing under 4.5 tonnes.

Motorcycles, agricultural vehicles, special-purpose vehicles and vehicles brought into Victoria after having been registered in another state for at least one year will be exempt.

However, given around half of all new cars sold in Victoria today don't come equipped with ESC as standard, this could pose a problem for a number of manufacturers.

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Once the January 2011 deadline passes, non-complying cars won't be able to be registered in Victoria.

Many cars offer ESC as a cost option (which would obviously necessitate a price rise), but some vehicles simply don't have ESC available as an option.

The Honda Jazz and Honda City are two such cars, and the base-model of the just-released Kia Soul is another - all three of which come packaged with ESC overseas.

Honda says both the City and Jazz will get stability control as standard kit by late 2010, while Kia told TMR that it is currently in the process of tackling the Soul's ESC issue.

The problem with this intiative is that it puts Victoria out of step with other states. The result is that it will effectively impose Victorian legislation across the Commonwealth, since manufacturers will be unlikely to specify cars differently from state to state.

For a state which does not require a safety check of any sort over the life of registered ownership of a car, it is also perhaps a little illogical. ESC is only of limited benefit on a car with bald tyres, ratty brakes or clapped-out shockers.

There are numerous cars on sale that don't offer ESC at any price point, but the Victorian Government's proposed legislation may prove to be the catalyst that will change that.

“ESC is not yet an option on some small and light vehicles that are in demand for fuel efficiency and running costs, so it is important that we act decisively to ensure buyers can access this lifesaving technology sooner,” said Victorian Roads Minister, Tim Pallas.

“This is a bold move from Victoria, similar to the introduction of compulsory seat belts in the 1970s. We’re confident there will be a big reduction in serious injuries from road crashes and the massive cost impact these crashes have on Victorian families and the community.”

“In 2008 there were 120 deaths on Victorian roads involving run-off road crashes, including deadly rollovers. By making this active safety feature mandatory on new cars and light commercial vehicles sold from January 2011, we expect many lives to be saved on our roads.”

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