Continental Teves North America has begun a five-month, 15-stop promotional tour to sell U.S. motorists on its Electronic Stability Control (ESC) system.
``Our challenge is to educate consumers so they can capitalize on increased safety,'' said William Kozyra, president and CEO of Continental Teves, at a July 23 speech kicking off the national tour of the ``Safely There'' mobile exhibit. The trailer-sized unit features interactive, multimedia displays and what the company called ``Disney quality'' presentations to demonstrate the safety benefits of the ESC system to motorists.
According to Mr. Kozyra, ESC is an active safety system designed to keep motorists on the road and going in their intended direction despite hazardous road conditions and situations. The system's sensors compare a vehicle's behavior in relation to steering wheel position. When they detect a discrepancy between the driver's intentions and the vehicle's actual path, it intervenes to redirect the vehicle's movement.
``ESC keeps the vehicle automatically on the road,'' Mr. Kozyra said in his presentation. ``The driver only has to steer the vehicle where he wants it to go.''
Continental Teves is well-positioned to integrate systems such as ESC in vehicles, he added, because its parent company, Continental A.G., manufactures tires, body mounts and many other essential vehicle components.
The ESC system can be calibrated to work with any size and make of tire, a Continental Teves spokesman said.
Studies performed by such entities as Mercedes-Benz, Toyota and the Swedish National Road Commission have shown that vehicles equipped with ESC have approximately 30 percent fewer single-vehicle crashes and 55 percent fewer high-speed accidents than vehicles without it, according to Mr. Kozyra.
He estimated that widespread use of ESC on U.S. vehicles could save as many as 5,000-6,000 lives and $35 billion in economic costs annually.
However, although ESC is included on nearly half the new cars sold in Europe, it is on only 6 percent of new vehicles sold in the U.S., he said. If U.S. motorists knew more about the technology, they would insist on it, he added.
``I believe there is too much emphasis in this country on protecting people after a crash occurs,'' Mr. Kozyra said. ``Job One should be to avoid the crash altogether.'' ESC, he said, is the second-most-important safety feature after seat belts that can be included on a vehicle, and is ``far better than air bags.''
Mr. Kozyra was accompanied in his presentation by supporters such as Rep. Richard Burr, R-N.C., vice chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Harry Teeter, executive director of the American Trauma Society.
``It's great to see a private company refine technology that can make the difference between life and death,'' said Rep. Burr, who represents Charlotte, N.C.-based Continental Teves in Congress.
``We have more than 1,000 trauma centers in this country, and each will see a rollover victim almost every day,'' Mr. Teeter said. ``I only recently heard of ESC, but what I've heard really impressed me. I don't have it now, but believe me, my next car will have it.''
Among other places, the mobile exhibit has scheduled stops at the Sea Fair in Seattle; the Rocky Mountain Balloon Fest in Denver; and the Fall Festival of the Arts in Tempe, Ariz.