Electronic Stability Control (ESC) systems use automatic computer controlled braking to help the driver maintain control in risky driving situations in which the vehicle is beginning to lose directional stability at the rear or front wheels. The percentage of passenger vehicles (PV) equipped with ESC has increased significantly as a result of implementation of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 126. As of September 1, 2011, all new passenger cars (PC) and light trucks and vans (LTV) must be equipped with ESC and comply with this standard.
In 2014, NHTSA updated ESC effectiveness estimated for PCs and LTVs. The report, "Updated Estimates of Fatality Reduction by Electronic Stability Control," by Chuck Kahane, provides estimates of 37.8 percent ESC effectiveness for passenger cars (PCs) occupants and 55.9 percent effectiveness for LTVs (light truck and van) occupants.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) list of ESC-equipped vehicles from Model Years (MY) 1996 to 2014 was used to determine where each make/model in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data had (1) ESC standard, or (2) ESC optional, or (3) ESC not available. A variable was established that showed which PVs were coded to have ESC standard or not have ESC standard. This ESC variable was used to produce counts of ESC-equipped PVs in fatal crashes, and the fatality counts from occupants of those vehicles. The fatality counts reflect occupant fatalities in PVs with ESC standard involved in single-vehicle crashes, from FARS 2008-2011 Final files, and FARS 2012 Annual Report File (ARF).
The formula used to calculate the estimate of lives saved (LS) from ESC is dependent on (1) the number of single-vehicle crash fatalities (F) that did not involve pedestrians, pedalcyclists, or animals in the first harmful events, and (2) the effectiveness (E) of the ESC in the involved single-vehicle with ESC. This LS formula is: LS = F * E / (1-E). The number of single-vehicle crash fatalities is stratified into two counts: PC occupants (734 in 2012) and LTV occupants (551 in 2012) The effectiveness of ESC that is inserted into this formula for LS is 0.378 for PC occupants and 0.559 for LTV occupants (Kahane, in review).
In 2012, electronic stability control (ESC) saved an estimated 446 lives among passenger car (PC) occupants, and 698 lives among light truck and van (LTV) occupants, for a total of 1,144 lives saved among passenger vehicle (PV) occupants. Combining the annual counts in Table 1 shows that ESC has saved close to 4,000 lives during the 5-year period from 2008 to 2012.
ESC Lives Saved Estimates, by Year and Vehicle Type, 2008-2012
Passenger Cars with ESC Standard
Light Trucks/Vans with ESC Standard
Passenger Vehicles with ESC Standard
Source: NHTSA, NCSA, FARS 2012 ARF and FARS 2008-2011 Final File IIHS list of ESC-equipped vehicles.
- Fatality counts used to estimate ESC lives saved are limited to single-vehicle crash fatalities, where the crash did not involve a pedestrian, pedalcyclist, or animal in the first harmful event.
- Note: Totals may not equal sum of components due to independent rounding.
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