New car safety requirements are a no-brainer

Friday, April 6, 2007

We're not in favor of government over-regulation, but when it comes to saving lives, the argument loses steam.

Such is the case in Thursday's announcement that electronic stability control will be required equipment on all new cars and light trucks sold in the United States by Sept. 1, 2011.

It's always been amazing that Americans haven't become outraged over the number of car-crash fatalities, which number more than 40,000 a year. Somehow, we've become jaded to the tragedy and cost in lives and dollars.

The new regulation, however, recognized that we can apply to huge advances in electronics to making mass-produced cars safer.

For only a few more dollars than current anti-lock brake systems cost, electronic stability control, already standard or available on more than 150 light vehicle models in the United States, can be added.

According to multiple studies around the world, electronic stability control has plenty of statistics to recommend it:

* Vehicles equipped with ESC have about 35 percent fewer crashes.

* Vehicles with ESC have a 30 percent reduction in head-on crashes.

* U.S. studies show passenger cars with ESC have 30 percent fewer fatal single-vehicle crashes, and SUVs have a 63 percent reduction in such wrecks.

* The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration predicts ESC could save 10,500 lives in the United States, and prevent between 168,000 and 252,000 injuries each year, translating to more than $40 billion in savings in economic losses in the U.S. alone.

* An independent 2006 study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety concluded that ESC could prevent nearly a third of all fatal crashes and reduce the risk of rollover crashed by as much as 80 percent.

Clearly, the new requirement is a no-brainer. And, with many manufacturers already offering ESC, none of them should have trouble meeting the deadline.

But improvements shouldn't stop there. Engineers are already experimenting with radar systems and other sensors that actually could allow cars to communicate with one another, preventing crashes when the drivers aren't paying attention.

By applying relatively low-cost technology to vehicle safety, thousands of lives and billions of dollars can be saved.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: