Thursday, March 11, 2010

Lack of ESC Awareness Kills People

Before last September I had never heard of Electronic Stability Control (ESC), but a few months later I found myself blowing the whistle on the fact that the transit van I drive was not equipped with it:

ESC is a safety feature like no other. It’s second only to seat belts in preventing fatalities and (unlike seat belts) it cannot be retrofitted by practical means. So, once you buy a vehicle, you are stuck with what you have.

It turns out that there have always been problematic trade-offs in fleet buying practices relative to cost versus safety. This combined with the current availability of this unusually important safety option is leading to a rash of bad decision making.

ESC will be mandated by the NHTSA in late 2011 for all 2012 motor vehicles under 10,000 pounds. (I think that conversion vans may have another year to comply, I am not sure about this.)

The NHTSA web site and the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) web sites both say that ESC has been standard on all Ford and GM passenger vans since 2006, but this is not true. Both Ford and GM sell cargo vans without ESC to van conversion companies that covert them into 15-passenger vans. That’s how I ended up with a 2009 Ford E350 passsenger van without ESC. (The van I drive has has 13 seats, by the way)

There is an ESC awareness program in Europe:

but there is nothing comparable in the USA. There are campaigns in Europe to try to get fleet buyers to equip vehicles with ESC, but no such effort in the USA:­cars/32609/

I have made estimate that equipping 1700 vehicles with ESC on average saves one fatality over the life of the vehicles. So its realistic to think that an awareness program to get people to choose it prior to the mandate could save lives:

1.53 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveld (vmt)
128,000 vmt per vehicles lifetime
1.9584 deaths per 1000 cars
0.3 = ESC fatality reduction (based on field data)
0.58752 lives saved per 1000 cars equiped with ESC
equipping 1702 vehicles save one life