Electronic Stability Control Standard in Passenger Vehicles by 2012

Saying this decision could ultimately save as many as 10,000 lives each year on U.S. roads, U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters and National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator Nicole R. Nason yesterday announced a final rule that will require Electronic Stability Control to be standard equipment on every new passenger vehicle sold in America by 2012. They made the announcement during an appearance at the New York International Auto Show.

ESC uses automatic, computer-controlled braking to keep drivers from losing control on slippery roads or in emergency maneuvers. "This technology will save thousands of lives. Like airbags and seat belts, 10 years down the road we will look back at the new ESC technology and wonder how we ever drove a car without it," Peters said. The rule will establish Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 126, Electronic Stability Control Systems, and will apply to cars, trucks, vans, and buses under 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight rating. The Federal Register notice prepared by DOT is available in a 327-page document available at www.safercar.gov/esc/Rule.pdf. The rule's summary says this requirement will prevent an estimated 34 percent of single-vehicle passenger car crashes, 59 percent of single-vehicle SUV crashes, and a "much greater reduction of rollover crashes."

"ESC technology will put the brakes on crashes and help drivers keep control of their cars in critical situations," Nason said. "ESC works, it will save lives, and it can give American drivers and passengers the peace of mind that comes from knowing their vehicles have some of the most technologically advanced safety equipment available." The rule will require manufacturers to begin equipping passenger vehicles with ESC starting with model year 2009 and to have the feature available as standard equipment on all new passenger vehicles by the 2012 model year (September 2011).

Joan Claybrook, president of the advocacy group Public Citizen, issued a statement calling the proposal inadequate. "While we are pleased that the agency has substantially sped up the implementation schedule for the final rule and added engine control -- one of the more important components omitted in its proposed rule -- we are disappointed that the final rule is still not stringent enough," she wrote. "It does not require roll stability control, which corrects vehicle tip-up, a feature to prevent vehicles like SUVs from tipping over. It does not mandate the most extensive equipment available: every system on the road today is more extensive than what the new ESC standard requires. It requires the system to prevent loss of control when the vehicle turns less than the driver intends it to (understeer) without requiring a performance test to validate the effectiveness of the understeer intervention."

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