Stability Control Has Ways to Go



The U.S. federal government has mandated electronic stability control for the 2012 model year. But while it’s on the way as standard equipment, its installation is spotty — and often, as it is around the world — stability control is prevalent in big expensive cars, and less so in smaller compact cars where it could make a big difference in safety.


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has estimated that stability control could save up to 9600 fatalities and 238,000 injuries annually, at an average cost of only $111 a vehicle in addition to the cost of the anti-lock system, and the federal agency has called stability control the most significant development since the seatbelt.


Commonly referred to as ESC, but also with a number of different trade names, including ASC, VSC, VDIM, Stabilitrak, and Active Handling, electronic stability control works to avoid the loss of control in an emergency maneuver by anticipating a skid with a set of sensors then engaging the brakes at one or more wheels individually and employing the anti-lock system help to restore stability.


In the U.S. , automakers have rushed to quell rollover concerns for sport-utility models by installing stability control systems. For 2007, 87 percent of sport-utility vehicles come with stability control, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), but only a small percentage of U.S. small cars — likely a much lower percentage than in Europe , where it’s becoming more common — come with the technology. Fleet-wide in the U.S., installation is approaching 50 percent.


So stability control has a long way to go before it’s a permanent part of the fleet. And it’s likely, because of cost, to show up in compact cars last.


But that may be bad news for younger drivers. Recent studies from Germany’s ADAC, an automobile association, have found that most accidents involving drivers aged 18 to 25 involve curvy roads, loss of stability, and the car going off the road. These smallest cars in Europe are often driven by beginning drivers, according to the group.


In 2006, 43 percent of all newly registered cars in Europe were fitted with stability control, according to the company, three percent higher than for 2005.


Bosch said that while stability control is largely standard equipment among mid-size and luxury vehicles in Europe, among small and mini cars, only 13 to 15 percent are fitted with stability control in the continent’s five main markets — France, Italy, Germany, Spain, and the U.K.   In Germany , the percentage of small cars with stability control is 30 percent.

Related Articles


NHTSA: Fatalities, Injuries Down by Bengt Halvorson (7/29/2007)
Pedestrian deaths down as well.


IIHS Picks 13 Imports for “Top Safety Picks” by Marty Padgett (11/27/2006)
SUVs eligible for first time;
stability control the key.



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