Electronic Stability Control (ESC) systems appear to be effective in reducing the number of single-vehicle crashes, including rollovers, according to a preliminary study by the U. S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The technology has proved particularly effective for sport utility vehicles (SUVs), the study found.
In 2003, 7.4 percent of the light vehicle fleet was sold with some form of ESC. The systems can improve a vehicle’s stability by electronically assisting drivers in dangerous situations. In most vehicles, the ESC system improves the vehicle’s lateral stability and, at the same time, electronically combines the attributes of anti-lock brakes and traction control systems to help a driver avoid a potentially dangerous situation.
Among vehicles in the NHTSA study, ESC reduced single vehicle crashes in passenger cars by 35 percent when compared to the same models sold in prior years without the technology. The preliminary results were even more dramatic for the much smaller sample of SUVs in the study: Single vehicle crashes were reduced by 67 percent in models with ESC. Evaluating fatal crashes only, ESC was associated with a 30 percent reduction for passenger cars, 63 percent for SUVs.
“This technology appears to provide safety benefits by reducing the number of crashes due to driver error and loss of control because it has the potential to anticipate situations leading up to some crashes before they occur and automatically intervene to assist the driver…,” according to the study.
NHTSA evaluated the technology by studying fatal and non-fatal crashes from 1997-2003. The study examined crash statistics only for vehicles equipped with ESC as standard equipment. The agency emphasized that the results are preliminary and that it will have more confidence in the effectiveness of ESC when studies can evaluate a larger cross-section of the vehicle fleet.
In 2003, 15,621 people died in single vehicle passenger crashes on the nation’s highways. Summaries of the study are available on the NHTSA web site at: http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/cars/rules/regrev/evaluate/809790.html