Stability control systems could save more than 7,000 lives a year if automakers adopt the technology across their entire car and truck lineups, according to an insurance industry study released Oct. 27, according to the Detroit News. The study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found the greatest safety benefit for single-vehicle crashes that result in a fatality. The study estimated stability control would reduce the likelihood of a fatal single vehicle crash by 56 percent. In 2003, 15,621 people died in single-vehicle crashes, according to federal crash data. The new study echoes federal government findings published last month. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found the greatest safety benefits for SUVs, with stability control leading to a 67 percent reduction in single-vehicle crashes. NHTSA found that stability control led to 30 percent fewer single-vehicle crashes in cars. The agency estimated that 7.4 percent of vehicles sold in the United States in 2003 featured stability control. Electronic stability control systems (ESC) help drivers stay on the road in emergency situations by automatically adjusting steering and braking to keep a vehicle on course. Sensors in the steering wheel and in the braking system calculate the driver's intended line of travel. If the driver is on a slippery road or is trying to turn too quickly at a high speed, the stability control system will apply the brakes to one or more wheels to bring the vehicle back under control. “SUVs typically have high single-vehicle rollover rates, and these crashes usually involve drivers losing control of their vehicles,” said Susan Ferguson, senior vice president for research at Insurance Institute. “So it wouldn't be surprising if SUVs benefited more from ESC.” The institute will look more closely at SUVs when stability control systems become more common, Ferguson said. Automakers are increasingly adding the technology. General Motors Corp. made stability control standard on its 15-passenger Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana vans in 2004.

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