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Stability Control Systems Yielding Dramatic Drop in SUV Death Rate

Sport-utes now safer than passenger cars thanks to anti-skid, anti-rollover technology.

by on Jun.09, 2011

A new study finds that with the increased use of anti-rollover technology SUVs now have a lower death rate than comparable passenger cars.

Your odds of dying or being seriously injured in the crash of an SUV – especially a rollover accident – has dropped sharply in recent years, according to a new report by an insurance industry trade group that gives much of the credit to the electronic stability control systems that are now becoming standard equipment.

While many motorists tend to view big sport-utility vehicles as a safe option because they sit higher, offer broader visibility over traffic – and have plenty of sheet metal surrounding the passenger compartment – utes have traditionally had higher death rates than comparably-sized sedans and coupes.  The big problem has been rollovers, which are far more common in truck-based vehicles, and which are responsible for a significant share of SUV deaths and injuries.

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But the situation has reversed itself now that a large and growing number of sport-utility vehicles come equipped with electronic stability control, a technology designed to help maintain control in poor driving conditions or when a driver makes an error like over-accelerating into a corner.  Most of the digitially controlled ESC systems used in trucks add software to minimize the risk of rollovers.

“The rollover risk in SUVs used to outweigh their size/weight advantage, but that’s no longer the case,” thanks to electronic stability control, or ESC, said Anne McCartt, the senior vice president for research at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. “Pound for pound, SUVs have lower death rates.”