The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration made it mandatory last year for all new cars to have stability control. Though regulations force extra cost onto automakers and the public, who have to pay more for cars that cost more to make, the agency also points out that stability control saves lives.
Mandatory stability control reported to have saved lives
In 2007, according to AutoGuide, Congress and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration did decree that all cars from September 2011 on have to have stability control, also called electronic stability control or ESC.
And the NHTSA has looked upon their work, and saw that it was good. In fact, the agency asserts that the systems are saving lives, as a recent study by the agency found between 2008 and 2010, before they were mandatory, 2,202 people did not become car crash fatality statistics directly because of ESC systems.
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The agency estimates 634 people in 2008, 705 in 2009 and 863 people’s lives in 2010 were saved by stability control systems.
Stability control is different from traction control, which governs wheel spin. The exact manner electronic stability control systems work varies by car maker, but the basics are essentially the same. The system incorporates sensors at the wheels and at the steering wheel, but the area of focus is yaw, according to Edmunds, or how an object moves along it’s vertical axis.
A yaw sensor, in an ESC system, reads how much the vehicle is “tilting” from side-to-side during cornering. It compares that to steering input from the driver and if it detects certain parameters are being exceeded, say if a car is starting to skid out of control, it applies brakes, either all four or on specific wheels, along with cutting engine output. The idea is to reverse the skid and put the vehicle back in the driver’s control, safe for conditions.
ESC was largely developed by Bosch, a components and engineering company that works closely with the German auto industry. Bosch also invented anti-lock brakes, which debuted in Mercedes-Benz and BMW cars, and then introduced traction control, which prevents too much power being put down and the wheels spinning, and then completed something of a safety trifecta when Bosch introduced ESC, first offered on Mercedes S-Class in 1995 as the “Electronic Stability Program.”
Not the worst idea
According to Cars.com, the NHTSA estimates stability control could save 5,300 to 9,600 lives and prevent 156,000 to 238,000 injuries in car crashes per year. As of 2010, 85 percent of new cars had the technology though 62 percent of pickups lacked it that year. However, they have it now, so if one were to buy a new Tacoma from, say, Michael’s Toyota in Bellevue, Wa., rest assured that it’s there.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimated that ESC could decrease the chance of a crash, specifically single-vehicle crashes where drivers lose control due to conditions or over-correction, by almost 50 percent and fatal single-vehicles crashes by 56 percent, according to Philly.com, website for the Philadelphia Inquirer. The chance of rollover in IIHS testing was diminished by more than 70 percent.
The next step, according to the NHTSA, is to mandate ESC for heavy vehicles, such as tour buses and semi-trucks. The agency believes doing so would cut 56 percent of rollover crashes and 14 percent of crashes involving a loss of control in such vehicles every year.