Life-saving benefits of ESC continue to accrue

September 1, 2016

Electronic stability control (ESC) saved an estimated 4,100 lives in 2010-14, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says in an updated analysis.

In 2014 alone, ESC saved 1,580 lives, the agency says. That is more than double the 682 lives saved during 2010 before the U.S. regulator required the groundbreaking technology on passenger vehicles.

ESC is an extension of antilock brake technology that helps drivers maintain control of their vehicles on curves and slippery roads. It is especially effective at preventing rollover crashes. The technology is standard on 2012 and later passenger vehicles.

The benefits of ESC are expected to keep growing as the technology spreads through the general fleet of vehicles on the road. During 2014, 47 percent of registered vehicles had ESC as standard or optional equipment at the time of manufacture, analysis by HLDI shows. HLDI predicts that the proportion of registered vehicles with available ESC won't reach 95 percent until 2032 (see HLDI Bulletin, 32:16, September 2015).

IIHS studies indicate that ESC reduces fatal single-vehicle crash risk by about half and fatal multiple-vehicle crash risk by 20 percent for cars and SUVs. Many single-vehicle crashes involve rolling over, and ESC's effectiveness in preventing rollovers is even more dramatic. It reduces the risk of fatal single-vehicle rollovers by 75 percent for SUVs and by 72 percent for cars.

NHTSA estimates the installation of ESC reduces fatal single-vehicle crashes of cars by 38 percent and fatal single-vehicle crashes of SUVs by 56 percent. The agency's updated estimates include only vehicles with standard ESC and not vehicles that may have been equipped with optional ESC. The estimates also don't take into account lives saved in multivehicle crashes.

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