The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety claims that making electronic stability control (ESC) a standard feature in the US could reduce auto deaths by up to one-third, which would result in a whopping 11,000 fewer fatalities per year.
The institute's numbers show that otherwise identical vehicles have a 43 percent reduction in fatal crashes when equipped with ESC. Not only were single-vehicle crashes (most often occurring when a vehicle loses control and leaves the roadway) reduced, but high-speed multiple-car collisions were also less common. Not surprisingly, the number of low-speed crashes remained the same, as ESC doesn't do much good in a parking lot unless some serious hooliganism is involved.
While some call for specific federal legislation that would mandate the technology on all motor vehicles, an upcoming revision to NHTSA's rollover test that will invoke a dynamic handling maneuver is said to effectively require ESC on most vehicles. Approximately 70 percent of SUVs and 40 percent of passenger cars sold in the US in the current model year have ESC as standard equipment.
We've explored the limits of electronic stability control on several SUVs that have recently rolled through the Autoblog Garage, and we can state that modern electronic babysitters are indeed amazing at arresting our intentional attempts at upsetting the vehicles. As such, we definitely support the idea of ESC as standard equipment, just so long as each vehicle also includes a means to completely deactivate it.