The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in the US does not believe electronic stability control (ESC) is becoming less effective, despite its latest survey data showing that the live-saving technology had less impact on preventing accidents than it did in 2006.
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The IIHS report released this week revealed that ESC lowers the risk of a deadly crash by 33 percent and cuts the risk of a single-vehicle rollover by 73 percent. These results, however, were between seven and 10 percent lower than the previous study four years ago.

But IIHS senior vice president for research, Anne McCartt, confirmed that ESC was still one of the most effective technologies ever developed for preventing fatal crashes.

She admitted she could not categorically account for the discrepancy but suggested it may have to do with the way early ESC-equipped vehicles were driven compared with modern day vehicles.

“Sports cars and luxury models were the first to get ESC,” Ms McCartt said. “People tend to drive these cars faster and more aggressively than family vehicles, getting into the risky situations that lead to the loss-of-control crashes ESC is designed to prevent.”

She said many everyday drivers rarely got into situations where ESC would take over.

“The good news is that ESC still works well when it’s needed.”

The study found that ESC reduced the risk of a fatal crash by 49 percent in single-vehicle passenger vehicle crashes and 20 percent in multiple vehicle crashes.

Its effectiveness is higher for SUVs as they have a higher centre of gravity than cars and are more likely to become involved in the kind of loss-of-control and rollover crashes that ESC is designed to prevent.

The IIHS predicted that 15,600 fatal crashes between 2002 and 2008 could have been prevented if all new passenger vehicles had been equipped with ESC.

Currently in the US, 88 percent of all 2010 model year cars have ESC as standard, and 100 percent of SUVs. By law, ESC will be compulsory on all new cars, SUVs and pickups in the US by 2012.

In Australia, the Federal Government announced exactly one year ago today that ESC would be compulsory for all new passenger vehicles sold in Australia from November 1, 2011, and for all new vehicles from November 2013.