A report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provides solid evidence for the life-saving performance of electronic stability control systems. According to NHTSA data, stability control on passenger vehicles helped prevent 2202 deaths from car crashes between 2008 and 2010.
"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," NHTSA administrator David Strickland said in a statement.
In April 2007, a new NHTSA rule required all automakers to phase-in electronic stability control systems over the next few years -- although many high-end manufacturers had already added it as an option. All model-year 2012 vehicles built after September 1, 2011, must have the technology as standard. By selectively applying the brakes (or, on some vehicles, turning the steering wheel), stability control systems attempt to prevent cars from sliding or spinning.
Based on NHTSA's crash data, the agency says that vehicles equipped with stability control saved 634 lives in 2008, 705 lives in 2009, and 863 lives in 2010. Those numbers are expected to increase in the future, according to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
"As more vehicles on the road are equipped with ESC in the coming years, we know the technology will save even more lives," he said in a statement.
Automobile Magazine named electronic stability control our 2007 Technology of the Year, calling it "the greatest bacon saver since cars got brakes."