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What is Electronic Stability Control?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2016
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Electronic stability control is a system designed to increase the safety of vehicle handling by integrating input from a number of sources. Electronic stability control evolved from safety systems such as anti-lock brakes which were implemented to keep drivers from losing control of their vehicles. Although electronic stability control systems are not standard in all vehicles, they are increasingly appearing as an option in new cars.

Electronic stability control is a centrally controlled system which continuously monitors the handling of a car. Sensors keep track of acceleration, individual tire speed, steering wheel position, and the centrifugal forces which act on a vehicle while turning. These sensors detect when a driver may be losing control, and implement measures to prevent this eventuality. Electronic stability control systems can apply pressure to individual brakes and reduce the engine speed to maintain driver control of a vehicle.

Three primary systems combine to form electronic stability control. The first is a traditional anti-lock brake system, which monitors the brakes of the vehicle to prevent lockup. The second is a traction control system, which is designed to prevent the driver from losing traction. This is accomplished by selected braking and reduction of excess engine power. The third is a yaw control stability system, which compares the direction the driver is intending to steer in with the direction the car is traveling in.

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the United States studied electronic stability control systems in 2004 and determined that they could reduce the risk of a fatal single vehicle crash by as much as 56 percent. Single vehicle crashes are often caused by loss of traction control, which results in a spin out. Hopefully, the driver will end up in a ditch. If unlucky, the driver may end up in the wrong lane of traffic or in a collision with a object.

Electronic stability control saves lives, and when offered the opportunity to purchase a car with this feature, drivers should take it. Especially in the instance of Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs), vans, big trucks, and other large automobiles, electronic stability control is an excellent idea. While it will not prevent all accidents, electronic stability control will help to correct potentially dangerous driving situations including loss of traction and oversteering.

A car equipped with electronic stability control will handle better, although it will not be able to compensate for catastrophic driver mistakes such as speeding. Especially in hazardous weather conditions such as icy roads, the system can activate quickly and effectively to preserve the safety of the driver. Electronic stability control assists in braking, acceleration, and cornering situations, usually invisibly.

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