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Safety Technology May Have Financial and Safety Benefits

Electronic Stability Control (ESC), an automotive safety technology now required to be part of all new cars built in the United States, may have a significant impact on both safety and auto insurance rates.

Electronic Stability Control

ESC is a crash-avoidance feature that uses computer-controlled braking to reduce the risk of rollovers and other types of crashes. Automotive and safety experts have found it can prevent injuries and deaths. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) notes ESC can help drivers maintain control on slippery roads or while moving at high speed. To facilitate this, sensors assess the vehicle’s responsiveness to the driver and correct for problems by braking individual wheels.

While all new vehicles are required to incorporate ESC as of this September, many older models lack the system. All of IIHS top safety picks in the organizations most recent evaluation were vehicles with ESC, including minivans, luxury sedans, pickup trucks and other vehicles.

Effects on Safety

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the development and implementation of technologies on vehicles, including ESC has contributed to lower the number of crash fatalities in recent years. In 2008, for example, the agency reported 37,000 deaths on the road, which was the fewest per year since 1961.

Officials with the NHTSA have estimated ESC may save as many as 9,600 lives per year, and prevent up to 238,000 injuries sustained in various collisions. The projected effect on single-vehicle crashes is a reduction by more than one-third. For SUVs in particular, it may reduce such accidents by nearly 60 percent.

Insurance Benefits

Insurance Information Institute spokeswoman Loretta Worters says drivers can expect to see car insurance rates lowered in response to the effects of ESC, with larger reductions likely for SUV owners. This may take some time, however.

Supporting this possibility is data from the Highway Loss Data Institute, which indicates that vehicles with ESC have experienced at least a 15 percent reduction in collision coverage losses compared to those without the system, although liability claims have not been noticeably affected.