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The NHTSA Finds Electronic Stability Control Saves Lives

A new study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has found that electronic stability control (ESC) is responsible for saving an increased number of lives each year since federal standards required that it be installed in all new vehicles.

ESC works by applying the brakes electronically at varying rates to each wheel on the vehicle helping keep directional control of the car when the driver is having trouble controlling the vehicle and keeping it stable. The NHTSA report projected that between 2008 and 2010 ESC had saved over 2,200 lives.

In the report breakdown, an estimated 634 lives were saved in 2008 and 705 lives in 2009. In 2010, a total of 863 lives were spared thanks to ESC, which included 366 light truck drivers and 497 passenger car occupants.

Electric Stability Control Prevents Off-Road Crashes and Rollovers

The NHTSA found a big drop in roadway injuries and deaths due to the “remarkable improvements to vehicle safety.” According to the study, the likelihood that a driver is involved in a crash is shrinking to historic lows, it credits this improvement to the technology that is loaded into new cars.

One example of significant improvement is in the case of rollovers. The likelihood of being involved in a rollover has dropped roughly 6 percent every year between 2000 and 2008. Rollovers have always been a rare but deadly accident type so their decline has helped dramatically improved injury and death rates. 

In the recent “Most Wanted” list, which the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) puts out, it recommended that ESC systems also be required in commercial fleets. It cited statistics from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety which estimated that ESC prevented 439 fatal commercial crashes each year.

ESC can also help prevent accidents that involve a car going off the road. In a recent press release David Strickland with the NHTSA said, “NHTSA research has consistently shown ESC systems are especially effective in helping a driver maintain vehicle control and avoid some of the most dangerous types of crashes on the highway, including deadly vehicle rollover situations or in keeping drivers from completely running off the roadway.” 

ESC Required Starting in 2007

The first federal regulation related to ESC was issued in 2007. It mandated that ESC technology appear in light-duty trucks and passenger vehicles through a process that was phased in, requiring all new models to have the technology as standard by the 2012 model year. 

The NHTSA also said that its estimate of saved lives due to ESC is probably low due to the difficulty determining exactly how many vehicles were actually equipped with ESC. It expects that in the next 10 to 15 years almost all vehicles on the road will be ESC equipped as older vehicles are replaced with new ones. This will lead to an increase in lives saved as more and more vehicles have this important safety feature.

A recent report by the NHTSA found that ESC has helped save over 2,200 lives since being required by federal mandate. The technology has been particular effective in preventing rollovers and vehicles departing the road.