Electronic stability control (ESC) has saved an increasing number of lives each year since federal standards began requiring that the safety technology be installed in vehicles, according to a new study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The technology employed by ESC electronically applies brakes to separate wheels, helping to keep directional control of the vehicle when the driver cannot keep the vehicle stable. According to the NHTSA report, ESC saved a projected 2,202 lives between 2008 and 2010.
In 2008, an estimated 634 lives were saved because of ESC. In 2009, 705 lives were saved. In 2010, 863 lives were saved, which included 497 lives among passenger car occupants and 366 lives among light-truck occupants.
ESC Key in Rollover, Off-Road Crash Prevention
An NHTSA study released during summer broke down what it found to be a steep drop in roadway deaths and injuries, finding that the likelihood that a driver gets in a crash is shrinking to historic levels due to “remarkable improvements to vehicle safety.”
The study also attributed some of the overall drop to a significant drop in rollovers, a type of crash ESC systems help prevent. The likelihood of being involved in a rollover, a generally rare incident that is nonetheless one of the most dangerous to vehicle occupants, dropped by about 6 percent for every model year between 2000 and 2008.
In its recent “Most Wanted” list, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommended ESC systems be required in commercial fleets also, citing statistics from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimating that ESC prevented 439 fatal crashes every year. The NTSB also cited NHTSA findings that show 23 percent of highway accidents involve a vehicle being run off the road, another crash type that ESC systems can address.
“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,” David Strickland, an NHTSA administrator, said in a statement about the latest ESC report.
Federal ESC Standards Go Back to 2007
Federal officials issued their first regulation on ESC in 2007, mandating the technology appear in passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks (which include SUVs, vans and pickup trucks) through a phased process that required all those vehicle types carry ESC in their 2012 models.
The latest report also complies with an executive order from President Barack Obama that federal agencies “periodically review its existing significant regulations,” according to the NHTSA.
The agency said that its estimates of lives saved by ESC were actually on the low end because it could not pinpoint the exact number of vehicles that are ESC-equipped, adding that it expected the vast majority of vehicles to have ESC in 10 to 15 years.
“As the overall PV fleet becomes more equipped with ESC, then the lives saved estimates will continue to rise significantly,” the report stated.
A report released in May from Celent posed a scenario the research firm titled “The End of Auto Insurance,” predicting that continuing integration of technology into vehicles would bring a significant reduction in revenue to insurance providers and upend how much car insurance costs.
The report also outlined what it believed would be the timeline for safety technologies, including collision avoidance technology that is currently “market-driven” but would become one of the fastest to be mandatory, becoming so between 2018 and 2022.