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Sunday, November 29 Front Page >> Random Rants >> ESP and Young Drivers of Canuckland saved me yesterday

Aug 15, 2004, 11:10pm

I'm actually still a bit shaken up by the ordeal, but the $300 ESP option I got for my Jetta TDI Sport Ed. proved itself worth every friggin' penny and then some yesterday. And even weirder - the intensive Young Drivers of Canada defensive driving course I took some 18+ years ago (damn, I'm old) helped a lot as well.

ESP stands for Electronic Stability Program, and it's an option that computer controls your car in emergency manoeuvers.

The sitch: Going down a fairly busy four lane road at about 65kph; heavily travelled roads by big rig trucks and such. Usually when I drive I'm aware of whats around me, and this wasn't any different: there's a rig right behind me, and another one on my back right corner panel, about 25 feet back.

Heading down a slope to an intersection. I have a green light. There's a minivan coming opposite, waiting to turn left, stopped, but eased into the intersection.

When I'm roughly 50 metres away from entering the interesection (doing 65kph and I have a green light all the way), the mini van starts lurching forward. For fuck sakes, I'm going to t-bone her. In what was probably 1/4 a second, I did the following

  • checked rear, side mirrors for big rig positions
  • lightly cranked the brakes, checked again for the rig in the lane to my right
  • started executing an emergency right hand swerve.

(all of this came from my YD of Canada training).

Everything seemed in slow motion; but almost instantly, I went from heading for a t-bone, to heading for a light standard 1.5 lanes away from me. At that point, I noticed the mini van had emergency stopped with a nose dip, (what was that idiot driver thinking about!!!!) and I was now cranking the wheel back to the left to finish the emergency S curve manuever...

That was when I caught a glimps of the ESP light flashing on the dash, and I could feel the wheels gripping, sliding, stuttering, correcting.

And folks, the car was like on rails. It went exactly where I pointed the wheel. I came out of the S turn and was driving, at about 40kph, straight down the same lane I was in when this mess started.

I gotta say.

a) It scared me silly
b) It impressed the crap out of me
c) I feel like writing a letter to VW and thanking them for ESP. I'm almost 100% sure I would have tanked in a side skid either into the Minivan or the lightstandard (coming out of the emergency turn) if not for the system.

small update: I found an even better detailed info site on ESP, complete with videos. Here's a quick question - do Japanese or N. American cars have features like this? If they do, are they a) relegated to luxury cars, and or b) much more expensive than $300 as an option?

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