While luddites and hard-core driving enthusiasts around the world shun the idea of stability control, a new study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration pretty much proclaims what we’ve known for some time: Despite hesitations for having more electronics in cars and Big Brother steering you away from danger, cars with stability control are much safer, not only in accident avoidance but also cutting down on fatality rates.
With stability control, the NHTSA found that the system prevented rollover crashes and cut down on accident fatalities by 18 percent. The government study used statistics gathered from 1997 to 2009 to assess the effectiveness of such systems.
Using sensors around the car, a stability control-equipped car can detect roll and wheel slip and adjust braking and power to compensate for erratic handling characteristics. The study, which tracked the numbers of cars sold in the U.S. with and without stability control, noted that in 2005, less than 20 percent of new vehicles sold had the feature. By 2007, legislation had been adopted to make the electronic software mandatory in new cars, which it will be for all new 2012 models.
The study also tracked individual models that did not have stability control during their model life and then later adopted it, comparing accident statistics in police-reported incidents. While the NHTSA notes that redesigns, new technology, and variance between drivers plays an active role in the safety of a car, it notes that the discrepancies aren’t necessarily enough to offset its findings.
“In many ways, ESC (electronic stability control) is an ideal crash avoidance technology,” the study said in its summary. “Because it acts so quickly and without driver input it can prevent a crash without the driver of the vehicle being aware that the system has intervened.”