While both cars and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) benefit from electronic stability control (ESC) systems, evaluation data suggest that the reduction in the risk of single-vehicle crashes was significantly greater for SUVs (49 percent) than for cars (33 percent).

13 June 2006
Nationwide,United States

Summary Information

Electronic Stability Control (ESC) systems work in the following manner:

    Antilock brakes have speed sensors and independent braking capability. ESC adds sensors that continuously monitor how well a vehicle is responding to a driver's steering wheel input. These sensors can detect when a driver is about to lose control because the vehicle is straying from the intended line of travel—a problem that usually occurs in high-speed maneuvers or on slippery roads. In these circumstances, ESC brakes the individual wheels automatically to keep the vehicle under control.
When a driver makes a sudden emergency maneuver or, for example, enters a curve too fast, the vehicle may spin out of control. Then ESC’s automatic braking is applied and in some cases the throttle is reduced to help keep the vehicle under control.

This Institute for Highway Safety study is based on data from the federal Fatality Analysis Reporting System and police reports of crashes in 10 states during 2001-04. Researchers compared crash rates for cars and SUVs without ESC and the same models in subsequent years when ESC was standard (note: some vehicles with optional ESC were included in the no-ESC group because so few buyers choose this option).


While both cars and SUVs benefit from ESC, the reduction in the risk of single-vehicle crashes was significantly greater for SUVs — 49 percent versus 33 percent for cars. The reduction in fatal single-vehicle crashes wasn’t significantly different for SUVs (59 percent) than for cars (53 percent). Many single-vehicle crashes involve rolling over, and ESC effectiveness in preventing rollovers is even more dramatic. It reduces the risk of fatal single-vehicle rollovers of SUVs by 80 percent, and 77 percent for cars. ESC was found to reduce the risk of all kinds of fatal crashes by 43 percent. This is more than the 34 percent reduction reported in the 2004 Institute for Highway Safety study. If all vehicles had ESC, it could possibly prevent as many as 10,000 of the 34,000 fatal passenger vehicle crashes that occur each year.

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Update on Electronic Stability Control. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Published By: Institute for Highway Safety

Source Date: 13 June 2006

Other Reference Number: Vol. 41, No. 5



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Goal Areas



Electronic Stability Control, ESC, crash rates

Benefit ID: 2008-00580