The Electronic Stability Control (ESC) System: Is it Enough to Stop Rollover Accidents?

Next to head-on collisions in the most number of deaths and grave injuries in the U.S. is rollover accidents. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), close to 10,000 deaths and more than 24,000 cases of serious injuries every year are due to rollover accidents.

A rollover accident, wherein a vehicle rolls onto its side or roof, can involve any type of vehicle, but most especially: vehicles that have tires that are worn out as these can easily lose traction; those that have a greater tendency to oversteer, or turn farther than it was meant, or understeer, that is, turn lesser that intended; and, SUVs due to their design of having a higher center of gravity from the ground.

It was in the 1990s, when the production of passenger vans increased and SUVs were introduced, when the number of injuries and deaths due to rollover accidents suddenly increased.The NHTSA says that two factors have consistently emerged in 75% of all fatal rollover crashes: vehicle speed above 55mph and intoxication due to alcohol. Driving while drunk is already totally dangerous; doing it at fast speeds is suicidal.

An SUV, more so a speeding SUV, can easily slide sideways when cornering too sharply. When this happens, it can skid off the road and its tires trip on a curb, dig into soft or muddy soil, or hit a guardrail, resulting to a rollover. In another instance, it could be due to failure to remain upright while driving down a steep slope.

While drunk-driving, speeding, driver distraction, reckless driving, etc., can cause an SUV (or any other vehicle) to rollover, the NHTSA and car manufacturers see this vehicle’s inability to remain stable to be the real cause of the problem. To correct this fault in design, three giant car manufacturers, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Toyota introduced in 1995 the Electronic Stability Control (ESC) system. ESC, also called dynamic stability control (DSC) or electronic stability program (ESP), is a computerized technological safety device designed to improve vehicle stability through detection and reduction of skidding or loss of traction. It actually consists of sensors that are able to sense loss of vehicle control. When loss of control occurs, ESC automatically applies brakes on each wheel to allow the driver to regain control of the vehicle and put it back on track. ESC also helps maintain vehicle stability during abrupt turns, eliminates any likelihood of oversteering and understeering, and improves traction and vehicle control on road shoulders, gravel patches and slippery or icy roads.

“Advances in technology and increased awareness of the importance of safety on the roads have, in recent years, reduced the threat posed to public health and safety by car accidents. Nevertheless, car accidents remain one of the leading causes of serious injury and wrongful death in the United States each year, and the sad truth is that far too many of these accidents could easily have been prevented.” (

Tucson car accident lawyers of Russo Russo & Slania “believe that victims of car accidents in Tucson should not have to pay for the consequences that they may face if someone else was to blame for their injuries. Fortunately, through the protections afforded by personal injury law, victims may not have to. In fact, they are often entitled to financial compensation and justice that allows them to better deal with the aftermath of a car accident.”