The mandate for ESC systems kicked in September 1, 2011, but automakers were offering it on many new cars, trucks and SUVs ahead of the rule. Consumer Reports went back to 2008. By looking at data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, CR tallied the saved lives at 634 in 2008, 705 in 2009 and 863 in 2010.
How does ESC work? Sensors monitor a driver's intended path. When the ESC senses that the car is going off the intended path, the system kicks in to apply brake pressure to a specific wheel to prevent a car from sliding or spinning out of control.
These systems are especially appropriate to pickup trucks and SUVs with higher centers of gravity than passenger cars, pickup trucks that tow trailers and cars that tend to get driven fast by their owners--sports cars.
ESC systems can also be a god-send, when, for example a tread comes loose from a tire or a flat develops. In any vehicle, but especially SUVs and full-sized pickups, the systems do a great job of keeping the vehicle controllable by the driver. SUVs, especially larger ones, are prone to rollovers in these situations without ESC.
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