- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 5, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) — The government said yesterday it would require all new passenger vehicles to have anti-rollover technology by the 2012 model year, predicting it could save thousands of lives and dramatically reduce rollover crashes.

The Transportation Department said “electronic stability control” could prevent 5,300 to 9,600 deaths annually and up to 238,000 injuries a year once it is fully deployed into the nation’s fleet.

“Like air bags and like seat belts, 10 years down the road we’re going to look back and wonder how the ESC technology was ever lived without,” Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters said at the New York International Auto Show.

The technology could help motorists avoid skidding across icy or slick roads or maintain control of their car when swerving to avoid an unexpected object in the middle of the road.

Electronic stability control senses when a driver may lose control of the vehicle and automatically applies brakes to individual wheels to help stabilize it and avoid a rollover.

Many vehicles, including sport utility vehicles, already have the technology, and several automakers have outlined plans to make it a standard feature. The mandate has been widely supported in the industry.

“There seems to be general recognition from auto manufacturers and the suppliers and safety advocates that this is technology that will save” thousands of lives, said Nicole Nason, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

General Motors Corp. called it “a significant step forward in improving safety for millions of drivers and passengers alike.”

John Krafcik, a Hyundai Motor America vice president, said the automaker pushed to implement the technology because “the evidence was so amazingly compelling.” Stability control is standard on about three-fourths of new Hyundai vehicles.

More than 43,000 people are killed annually on the nation’s roadways. Safety advocates view electronic stability control as a major advancement in safety because it holds the potential of reducing rollover deaths.

More than 10,000 people die in rollover accidents a year, even though only 3 percent of crashes involve rollovers. NHTSA estimated rollover deaths could be cut in half through the technology.

Mrs. Peters said nearly 40 percent of all 2007 vehicles, including about 90 percent of SUVs, have the technology.

NHTSA said the proposal, which applies to new vehicles lighter than 10,000 pounds, would cost about $111 per vehicle on those that already include anti-lock brakes, or a total of $479 per vehicle for the entire system. Automakers will need to comply with a 50 mph test involving a double lane change.

The requirement first was proposed last year, and the final regulations include a swifter phase-in plan. Stability control will be implemented beginning in the 2009 model year, when 55 percent of new vehicles will need to have it. By the 2011 model year, it will be in 95 percent of new vehicles.

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