Electronic Stability Control or "ESC" has been heralded as the most significant automotive safety technology since the seatbelt. ESC uses existing automotive technology - like anti-lock brakes and cruise control systems - and incorporates them into a simple yet efficient way of avoiding many crashes and rollover accidents from ever happening. By the mid to late 1990's most car manufacturers developed commercially available ESC systems and began to install them as standard equipment in a limited number of models by 1995.
However, many manufacturers chose not to install ESC systems in their vehicles until much later. Even when they did provide ESC, the car companies often only provided them to consumers as paid options or in a special package. The delay in providing an available and powerful safety device to consumers has undoubtedly resulted in many avoidable crashes and injuries.
In essence, an ESC system uses a computer linked to a series of sensors - detecting wheel speed, steering angle, and sideways motion. If the car or truck starts to drift on icy or wet roads - or during an evasive maneuver - the stability control system momentarily brakes one or more wheels and, depending on the system, reduces engine power to keep the car on course.
The United States National Highway Transportation Safety Administration recently found that the use of such Electronic Stability Control systems in motor vehicles would reduce fatal single vehicle crashes by 30% for passenger cars and 63% for sport utility vehicles. Internal studies by automobile manufacturers and insurance groups have come to similar conclusions. According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration research, ESC costs an additional $110 to install in a vehicle.
"No other safety technology since the seat belt holds the potential to save as many lives and prevent as many injuries as electronic stability control." -- Nicole Nason, administrator, NHTSA
"There really isn't any downsides that we're seeing. ESC is in a unique club with only seat belts and air bags for it's lifesaving potential." -- Russ Rader, spokesman, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
The Secretary General of the European counterpart to the NHTSA said: "Considering that ESC is the most effective safety device since the seat belt, no car buyer should have to bargain over it... a greater effort to make ESC fitment standard across the board is required."
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