When cars start to slip on icy winter roadways, many drivers will get a little help maintaining control, thanks to the electronic stability control (ESC), a standard feature in all vehicles under 10,000 pounds since 2012. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that ESC can significantly reduce one-vehicle crashes for cars and SUVs.
How ESC works
ESC works in tandem with your vehicle's other safety features, including the anti-lock braking system and traction control. Using sensors and a microcomputer, the ESC monitors the direction the vehicle is headed and its steering wheel position. When the two do not match up, the ESC works to correct under-and over-steering by applying the brakes to one or more of the wheels and, in some cases, reducing the engine throttle to adjust the direction the vehicle is heading.
The new standard
Though ESC technology has been around since 1995, it has only more recently become common, and finally a standard feature. By 2010, 88 percent of car models and 100 percent of SUVs came equipped with ESC. Not sure if your pre-2012 vehicle is equipped? The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety lists pre-2012 vehicles equipped with ESC on its website.
ESC is designed to prevent single-vehicle crashes that result from loss of control at high speeds or on icy roads; it is not intended to stop small fender-benders. However, as the use of ESC becomes more widespread, NHTSA believes the feature could save lives and prevent injuries.