A European Union campaign to increase the use of electronic stability control (ESC) is launched at the Bridgestone Corp. testing ground near Rome.

While technologies vary slightly among auto makers, ESC generally helps prevent vehicle rollovers by managing yaw and roll movements via electronic sensors and actuators that shift power away from slipping wheels during hazardous driving conditions or accident-avoidance maneuvers.

In Europe, the “Choose ESC” campaign is being led by the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) foundation under the patronage of European Commissioner Viviane Reding and FIA President Max Mosley.

The Rome launch features the release by the European New Car Assessment Program (Euro NCAP) of a recent EU ESC availability survey that finds there is a low take-rate of the technology across Europe.

Of the 25 countries surveyed, the Irish car industry was found to have the worst record in Europe for fitting ESC, which the EU says costs only E130 ($175) to install in new cars.

An Irish Automobile Assn. spokesman says in a published report that Irish motorists are not being told about ESC. “They are not even aware of it, and it is not being supplied to them,” he says.

A study by the Institute for Transport Economics at the University of Cologne claims making ESC mandatory in new cars sold in the EU would save 1,800 road deaths and more than €4.4 billion ($5.9 billion) in accident costs over the first four years.

“There is no doubt that ESC could contribute significantly to the European Union’s goal to halve the number of road traffic fatalities by 2010,” Mosley says. “But to achieve this, much more needs to be done to inform the consumer about why they must choose ESC when buying a new car.”

EU Commission Vice President Gunter Verheugen says with more than 40,000 people killed and more than 1 million injured in road crashes in the EU every year, ESC is becoming the most promising safety technology on the market.

“We are preparing the obligatory installation of ESC into new passenger cars via international harmonization,” he says. “Until it becomes mandatory, the voluntary choice of ESC is more than welcome.”

Also attending the campaign launch are Ivan Hodac, secretary general of the European Automobile Manufacturers Assn.; Nicole Nason, administrator-National Highway Transportation Safety Admin.; and Claes Tingvall, chairman of Euro NCAP.

Other participants include major stakeholders in intelligent vehicle safety systems, including motoring organizations, consumer groups, suppliers and national authorities from EU member states.