Airbags and seat belts have become standard equipment on cars, trucks, and SUVs for a simple reason — they save lives. But as today’s vehicles have become more sophisticated, so has their safety equipment. A recent addition to the standard safety features of many vehicles is a system called Electronic Stability Control, or ESC. Many drivers may not realize it, but more than half (51 percent) of all vehicles produced in 2007 come equipped with ESC, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Even more impressive, fully 87 percent of all SUVs produced in 2007 include ESC as a standard safety feature, while 58 percent of cars come equipped with the feature and 8 percent of trucks include ESC as standard equipment.
So what is ESC, and why is it included as a standard feature on so many 2007 vehicles, especially SUVs (like the Toyota FJ Cruiser, pictured above)?
According to the IIHS, almost half of all fatal crashes involving passenger vehicles involve a single vehicle. However, equipping vehicles with ESC can reduce the occurrence of these types of accidents by more than 50 percent. ESC does that by using speed sensors on each wheel to monitor steering wheel direction and the rotation of the vehicle around a central vertical axis (an imaginary line). When the system detects that the vehicle is rotating in the wrong direction, or losing traction or stability, it uses the antilock braking system to automatically brake the appropriate wheel to help the driver maintain control, and may even reduce engine power.
While ESC is currently not available on 36 percent of all 2007 vehicles (and is optional on 13 percent of vehicles), there will come a time in the next few years when it will become standard equipment on all vehicles, just like seatbelts and airbags. To search for vehicles equipped with ESC by make, model, and year, or to view videos or additional information about ESC, you an visit the IISH website at www.iihs.org.