Despite evidence proving that electronic stability control (ESC) systems significantly reduce the risk of crashes, these systems are not being considered when new cars are assessed for their insurance groups.
This means cars with ESC can be placed in the same insurance groups as cars with no safety systems at all, meaning there is no incentive from insurance companies for fleets to adopt this and other life-saving safety features.
In fact, cars fitted with crash-avoidance technology like ESC, traction control and collision mitigation can actually be placed in a higher insurance group because, if they are involved in a crash, they cost more to repair.
“I think it should be a contributory factor in the calculations – anything that helps prevent an accident should mean cheaper insurance,” said ACFO chairman, Julie Jenner.
Insurance groups are also often used to calculate the full life cost of a vehicle, as well as to ensure that company car drivers are in the safest cars in their class.
“It is really vital that ESC is included,” said David Ward, director general of the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the global road safety campaigning and research organisation.
Mr Ward pointed to research projects carried out the UK, America, Japan and Australia, which all found that ESC could prevent up to 25% of crashes.
According to research carried out by Bosch, which developed the system, ESC can reduce the risk of skidding by as much as 80%.
The European Commission’s own research found that ESC would prevent one-fifth of road crashes if it were fitted on all cars.
But ignoring the overwhelming evidence that cars fitted with ESC should be placed in lower insurance groups than those that haven’t, the Association of British Insurers (ABI), which controls the insurance grouping system, insists such safety systems should not be taken into account.
“We don’t take it into account because it is difficult to quantify its benefits,” said Derek Fawell, policy officer for motor at the ABI.
“However these are only advisory ratings, insurance companies will have their own experiences and may adjust their rates accordingly.”
While insurance groups may be advisory, they are used throughout the insurance and motor industry and a poor rating can seriously affect sales.
The FIA, the European Commission and Roadsafe all back a campaign to encourage the uptake of ESC because of its ability to help drivers avoid collisions.
Even Thatcham, the insurance-funded research centre that provides much of the technical information used by the ABI to calculate insurance group ratings, has put its voice behind the campaign.
Despite this, the ABI said that it will not differentiate between cars fitted with the safety system and those that do not, although Mr Fawell said the ABI’s eyes “remain open” to changing insurance group calculations.
Regardless of the ABI’s decision, some fleet managers are taking the initiative and demanding that manufacturers supply cars with ESC fitted as a no cost option.
Ann Dukanovic, fleet manager at Kaba Door Systems Limited runs a 200-mixed van and car fleet comprising VW, Honda, Ford, BMW, Volvo, Vauxhall and Toyota.
“I now insist that all our cars have ESC at no cost,” she said. “If a car is not available with ESC, it will not be on our options list.”