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Stability control saving lives, NHTSA study finds

Agency says the feature prevented an estimated 2,000-plus deaths between 2008 and 2010.

By Douglas Newcomb Dec 5, 2012 12:54PM

ESC. Image by Continental.Driving enthusiasts often decry the creep of “nanny” technology such as electronic stability control on cars -- or at least because in some vehicles it can’t be switched off. But according to a recent study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the federally mandated feature saved more than 2,000 lives between 2008 and 2010.

"These numbers send a clear message about this technology's life-saving potential," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement released by NHTSA. "As more vehicles on the road are equipped with ESC in the coming years, we know the technology will save even more lives."

ESC helps drivers maintain control of a vehicle through computer-controlled braking of individual wheels at the instant the system senses that they’re beginning to lose directional control. NHTSA published a final rule in April 2007 requiring all passenger vehicles sold in the U.S. to include ESC. The mandate was phased in and called for all vehicles manufactured on or after Sept. 1, 2011, or model-year 2012 vehicles to include the technology.

For consumers purchasing a used vehicle who want to make sure that it comes with ESC, the agency maintains a list of 2005 to 2010 model-year vehicles that are equipped with the technology on the website. Consumers can also search by individual make and model on the site.

Even before the federal mandate, automakers had been installing ESC on vehicles for years. Mercedes-Benz introduced the safety feature in 1995 on its flagship S-Class after co-developing the technology with Bosch.

With ESC now widespread throughout the U.S. passenger-car fleet, NHTSA’s three-year analysis estimates the technology saved 634 lives in 2008, 705 lives in 2009 and 863 lives in 2010, for a total of 2,202. The estimated number of lives saved according to the report was limited to vehicles on which ESC is standard equipment, and NHTSA says "the lives saved estimates are conservative."

"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," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland.

With ESC proving effective at saving lives, many observers predict NHTSA will next turn its attention to mandating emergency autonomous-braking systems that help avoid or mitigate damage in frontal collisions. In the same way that ESC debuted on higher-end cars and then became more pervasive, EAB is now following the same pattern and appearing in lower-cost cars from Subaru and Ford, for example.

[Source: NHTSA via Straight Line]
Dec 8, 2012 5:25AM
Now if they could make a Stability Control System for Drivers...
Dec 8, 2012 6:16AM
This data is based on...nothing.there is no data on "near wrecks",only on real wrecks so there is nothing to base this study on.NHTSA just says something and people believe it as truth.
Dec 8, 2012 3:20AM
I read a interesting article recently, about how such technology was causing more and more drivers who have no idea of what to do in a emergency. Because basic driver skills are not taught or learned anymore, if the system malfunctions many drivers have no knowledge of how to recover from a skid, or how to maintain control if the vehicle has a blow out. The article pointed out how the automotive industry uses the technology to increase sales to people who have never driven before because skills that use to be required now technology takes care of for you.
Dec 8, 2012 6:58AM

Please !

Some things prolong, but nothing "saves lives".

When 1.5 million Americans die every year, mandating expensive solutions to prolong 2,000 lives over three years has a very marginal cost/benefit value. We cannot afford everything that is doable in the name of "security", even in a society where fear is the second best seller after sex..

Dec 8, 2012 5:52AM
I've not experienced this technology but have ABS braking.  In many situations it incresaes the braking distance; when one wheel is on a slippery surface, it pumps the brakes when they should be applied fully to the other three wheels.  All this technology also adds many dollars to the price of a car and the cost of maintenance.  Wonder how many $$ where spent to save those lives of people who shouldn't have been driving in the first place.
Dec 8, 2012 5:21AM

With each new development we get closer and closer to 'driverless' cars.  Some have already been developed and offered for testing on public roads.  I believe one case was planned for Las Vegas.  Yes this will be a great boon for people who simply cannot drive.  Some of our more illustrious female Hollywood types come to mind here.  LOL  However the one major caveat that comes with all of this technology is its cost.  We are going to have to pay for it one way or another. 


My first brand spanking new care cost me just a little over $3000.00 and I was earning about $8000.00 per year. That translates to about 37.5% of my annual income.  I just recently purchased a new automobile for $34000.00 and I am retired with a fixed income of about $24000.00 per year.  So now it is 129% of my annual income.  When I was still working though I was earning just a little over $40000.00 per year so the new car would still have amounted to 83% of my annual earnings. 


So speaking from my personal experience inflation in the auto market has far outstripped the growth in my income.  The same is true for housing today.  So while this stuff is safer just remember that fewer people will be able to afford it.  That is just a fact of life here in the U.S.  I am always somewhat amused when I see photos and videos of some Latin American countries where ancient American iron still plies their streets reliably even if held together with spit and bailing wire.  I really wonder what poor economies will do for cars when our techno-whiz products become their only option?   Will they be able to train up to maintain it or will they just disable all of it?     

Dec 8, 2012 6:26AM

How about federally mandated driver training instead of letting the states decide to jlet mom and dad teach little Johnny and Jill all of the clueless habits they've obtained during their life.  Everyone complains how speed kills, yet look at European drivers (Germans particularly).  Low accident rates because of lengthy and intense driver training.  Understanding how to use the vehicle inputs appropriately together would go a lot farther in decreasing the amount of accidents and highway traffic deaths.  But that's just too simple a solution.

I have a 4-Runner with this technology and, personally, I hate it.  When the car skids on snow/ice, it eliminates power to the wheels which could actually assist in driving out of a skid.


I recommend reading "Going Faster" by Bob Bondurant on how to handle a car at speed with proper control.

Dec 8, 2012 4:55AM
My problem is with the ABS.  In order for it to work, you have to keep a firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.  If however, you are a bit older and still refleively try to pump your brakes, it actually takes a lot longer to stop the vehicle if you are pumping the pedal.  In my last car, I was almost in an accident because the ABS caused the car to keep going.  When the ABS went out, they asked me when I wanted them to fix it and I replied, "never!".  It just reverted back to standard braking and I felt much safer with that.  In the split second of a potential accident, your reflexes take over, and in my case, that makes ABS more dangerous than standard braking.
Dec 8, 2012 4:49AM
I have VSC in my 2002 Toyota Sequoia and have nothing but praises for it!  I did not think it would be compatible with my driving, but if you let it do what it is supposed to do it is an amazing feature.  Key point is not to panic, it "knows" what it is doing.  It has gotten me out of a few potentially bad situations the most notable being hitting a very long patch of ice on the interstate that obviously ended with the previous cars slamming into the bank of the overpass.  Right when I got onto the ice I was aware that I no longer had control of the vehicle due to the ice and that the VSC had kicked in right when it needed to, and I let it do what it needed to do until I could tell that I was back in control of my own vehicle!  Steered it right through of it!  Personally, I would prefer VSC on my vehicles.  It doesn't hinder my driving, it compliments it.      
Dec 8, 2012 4:54AM

Yeah...  but  ESC  still  doesn't   control  the  loose  nut  behind  the  wheel.  I  believe  sensors should  and  will play a larger role  in cars and bikes.

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