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Effects of electronic stability control on fatal crash risk

Farmer, Charles M.
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
May 2010

Objectives: A number of studies have reported the effectiveness of electronic Stability control (ESC) in reducing the risk of fatal motor vehicle crashes. The purpose of the present study was to examine ESC effectiveness using the latest data and to determine whether differences exist by vehicle type, style, or manufacturer of passenger vehicles.
Methods: Fatal crash involvement rates per registered vehicle were compared for otherwise identically designed vehicle models with and without ESC. Comparisons were across model years, so models with ESC were newer than those without. Effectiveness estimates were adjusted to account for these vehicle age differences.
Results: Based on all fatal crashes in the United States during 10 years, ESC was found to have reduced fatal crash involvement risk by 33 percent — 20 percent for multiple-vehicle crashes and 49 percent for single-vehicle crashes. Effectiveness estimates were higher for SUVs than for cars — 35 percent for SUVs and 30 percent for cars, but this difference was not statistically significant. Fatal crash involvement risk was reduced by an estimated 2 percent for full-size vans equipped with ESC, but this estimate was based on relatively little data and was not statistically significant.
Conclusions: There are significant reductions in fatal crash rates when passenger vehicles are equipped with ESC. ESC leads to reductions especially for fatal single-vehicle crashes, but there also are reductions for fatal multiple-vehicle crashes. As ESC has expanded from sports and luxury vehicles into the general fleet, the overall estimate of its effectiveness has declined by approximately 10 percentage points compared with an earlier estimate using identical statistical procedures. However, it still is one of the most effective technologies yet developed for preventing serious crashes.