Electronic stability control (ESC) will become mandatory for all new and used vehicles imported into New Zealand by 2020.
The new law will be phased in over the next six years with a proposed timetable announced by Associate Transport Minister Michael Woodhouse today.
The vast majority of new cars have ESC as standard so Woodhouse proposes mandating the technology for all new vehicles from July next year.
"ESC has been described by the New Zealand Automobile Association and many road-safety experts as the most significant advance in vehicle safety since the seatbelt," he said.
The move would significantly improve road safety with research showing ESC could reduce the risk of crashing from losing control by about 30 per cent. The minister's office predicts the rule will save more than 400 lives and prevent nearly 2000 serious injuries over the next 20 years.
"To ensure maximum safety benefits from the new technology, without choking supply from the mostly Japanese used-car market, I propose a phased implementation for imported used vehicles from 2016," he said.
SUVs had the greatest roll-over risk due to their high centre of gravity, and had the biggest safety gains from ESC.
Woodhouse said ESC potentially gave a 60 per cent reduction in crashes caused from losing control, so SUVs would be the first used-car category to come under the rule.
The rule would not apply to some imported specialist vehicles, such as vintage cars. Owners of existing vehicles could also be reassured they would not have to do anything, Woodhouse said.
Public consultation opens on the draft rule in early March.
Under the proposed timetable, ESC will be required for newly registered New Zealand vehicles as follows:
■ All new light passenger and goods vehicles from July 1, 2015
■ Used class MC vehicles (four-wheel-drive SUVs and off-road vehicles) from January 1, 2016
■ Used class MA vehicles (passenger cars) with engine capacity greater than 2 litres from January 1, 2018
■ All other used light passenger and goods vehicles from January 1, 2020
*ESC is a computerised technology that detects and reduces loss of traction by automatically applying brakes to individual wheels to help "steer" the vehicle. Some systems also reduce engine power until control is regained.
- The Dominion Post