Electronic Stability Control Saves as Many as 10,000 Lives a Year

A Consumer Reports study finds that Electronic Stability Control (ESC) significantly impacts car safety. ESC improves a vehicle’s handling by comparing the driver’s intended direction in steering and braking inputs, and then brakes front or rear wheels individually. At the same time, vehicles equipped with ESC automatically reduce engine power to help correct for under-steering (which causes plowing) or over-steering (which causes fishtailing).

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The Consumer Reports study finds that if all cars on the road were equipped with ESC, as many as 10,000 lives a year could be saved. The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration has also found that ESC reduces crashes by up to 35%. These drastic reductions in accidents and fatalities make ESC the most important safety development since seat belts and air bags.

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The federal government will require that all new cars be equipped with ESC starting in 2012. However, some automakers are ahead of the game. Ford has announced that they will make ESC standard on the entire 2009 line of vehicles, and General Motors will follow in 2010. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that this will cost an additional $470 per vehicle.

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The Consumer Reports study also detailed a variety of other new features that car manufacturers are adding to make our roads safer, including:

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Pre-Collision Systems: This feature, which can currently be found on Mercedes-Benz and Lexus vehicles, sense collisions before they occur and warn the driver with flashing lights or beeping horns. The system also fully charges the brakes and air bags and adjusts seat positions for optimal air-bag effectiveness.

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Adaptive Cruise Control: This system is able to maintain a set speed on the highway and automatically maintain a safe distance from the vehicle ahead of you on the road. Using a radar to detect the distance ahead, the vehicle will automatically slow down or accelerate the car as necessary.

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Lane Departure Warning: This system utilizes cameras that detect the stripes between lanes and activates an alert when the driver has wandered off the intended path. This system will be especially effective in cases where a sleepy or inattentive driver is at the wheel.