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By Mark Kleis

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has released its latest findings concerning the implementation of Electronic Stability Control on passengers vehicles – and amongst its observations was the drop in effectiveness at avoiding rollovers by roughly 7-10 percent, compared to its similar study in 2006.

First introduced in 1995, ESC functions by applying brakes at individual wheels as a result of a loss in traction, as well as possibly reducing throttle, as determined by a computer. The addition of ESC was first found in sports cars and luxury makes, which according to Anne McCartt, Institute senior vice president for research, may in fact be the exact reason for the decline in its effectiveness.

In other words, when ESC was first applied it was only added to vehicles that were more often put in situations that would benefit from ESC – such as high-speed maneuvers. Now, ESC is applied across vehicles of all types, most of which never encounter situations where ESC will be significantly needed. McCarrt adds, “The good news is that ESC still works well when it’s needed. That’s why it’s one of the requirements for Top Safety Pick.”

Another possible reason for the drop in effectiveness could be that drivers have become accustomed to the addition of ESC, allowing them to drive their vehicles harder and faster.

How effective is ESC?

Vehicles with ESC are on average 33 percent less likely to be involved in a fatal accident, and 73 percent less likely to be involved in a single vehicle rollover. Fatal crash risk for single-vehicle crashes is reduced by 49 percent with ESC, and 20 percent for multiple-vehicle crashes. Due to their higher center of gravity, SUVs enjoy effectiveness estimates of 35 percent, compared to just 30 percent in passenger cars.

For the current model year – 2010 – ESC is found standard on 88 percent of vehicles in the U.S., with 100 percent of SUVs containing the technology and 62 percent of trucks. By 2012, new federal regulations will mandate ESC across all models.



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