The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that all light vehicles must be equipped with electronic stability control (ESC) systems by model-year 2012. The new safety standard, which was published in the Federal Register on April 7, 2007, applies to new vehicles with a GVWR of 10,000 lb. or less, including trucks, buses, multipurpose passenger vehicles and automobiles.
A phase-in period begins Sept. 1, 2008 and all affected vehicles must be equipped with ESC by Sept. 1, 2011.
ESC systems use computer-controlled braking of individual wheels to help the drivers stay in control of the vehicle in situations where they begin to lose “directional stability,” such as over-correcting in an emergency situation or misjudging the severity of a curve.
Such systems are intended to prevent cars and trucks from suddenly veering off the road, thus reducing the number of injuries and deaths related to rollovers and collisions with other vehicles, trees, highway infrastructure, etc.
NHTSA estimates that ESC will add only $111 to the cost of a vehicle already equipped with antilock brakes.
According to NHTSA data, mandatory installation of ESC systems could prevent 84% of SUV rollovers and 71% of passenger car rollovers in single-vehicle crash situations. In addition, NHTSA data indicates that 59% of SUV single-vehicle crashes and 34% of passenger car single-vehicle crashes could be prevented by ESC. The agency estimates lives saved at between 5,300 and 9,600 annually, and injuries prevented at between 168,000 and 238,000.