As motorists driving on public roads we all have a responsibility to other drivers, pedestrians and our passengers to operate our vehicles in a safe and prudent manner. Unfortunately, circumstances occasionally make safe driving difficult even for the best drivers. When an accident situation arises, the average driver doesn’t always have the necessary skills to perform rapid emergency maneuvers to avoid an accident.
As Maryland personal injury attorneys, automobile and commercial trucking accident lawyers, we know that many accident situations are difficult to get out of simply because a two-ton vehicle traveling quickly can easily get out of control, especially at higher speeds. SUVs in particular, due to their higher centers of gravity and more pliant suspensions, can actually roll over given the right circumstance, which can threaten the lives of all the occupants, causing closed-head injuries, broken bones, and many times resulting in a person being thrown from the vehicle onto the roadway. Survival in that latter case is slim due to the violent action of being ejected from a moving vehicle.
Car, truck and motorcycle accidents happen in Maryland with amazing frequency. Emergencies on the highway, city streets, or rural routes can come in the form of another car or commercial truck that has lost control, a mechanical problem with one’s own vehicle, poor roadway conditions or bad visibility due to inclement weather. Whatever the initial cause of a potential traffic collision, a driver may be placed in a position where he or she must act instantly; deciding what to do and trying to guide their vehicle out of danger to the best of their ability. Quite often a driver is unable to avoid a collision likely caused by another driver’s negligence.
Even in the early days of the automobile, or horseless carriage, accidents could occur at speeds that would make us modern drivers laugh. A “high-speed” car accident in the halcyon days of the automobile might have happened at a staggering 10 miles per hour. And while speeds were many time slower than today’s posted expressway limits, people were hurt just the same and some even died from their injuries. Much of what makes our current cars safer at higher speeds was lacking in early motor vehicles, making them much more dangerous even at the relatively slow speeds of the time.
The absence of seatbelts, open carriage-style body design, thin bicycle-like tires and cable-operated braking systems; in part or together, each of these may have helped to contribute to automobile injuries and deaths in the early days. The point we’d like to make here is that improvements to the vehicle controls and occupant safety has made high-speed travel on our modern, densely-packed interstate road system possible without instilling the constant fear of death or permanent disability each and every time we climb into a car as a driver or passenger.
Now comes news that a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in Washington, D.C., has identified automobile stability control systems as a significant contributor to cutting roadway deaths. As mentioned earlier, even the best drivers cannot always be expected to think or act with the speed required to avoid a life-threatening auto wreck. But with the advent of onboard micro-computers and so-called black boxes, cars, truck and even some motorcycles have the ability to sense an impending out-of-control condition and correct for that, possibly saving lives in the process.
According to news articles, the NHTSA study found that stability control systems (commonly referred to as ESC, or electronic stability control) found in many newer vehicles prevented an estimated 2,000 or more fatalities within the three-year period starting in 2008. Based on that study by the NHTSA, these now federally- mandated ESC systems are expected to save more lives in the future.
For those who do not know how ESC works, it actually assists the driver as he attempts to maintain vehicle control during emergency maneuvers that might otherwise cause the car or truck to go out of control. Relying on the vehicle’s anti-lock braking system, as well as other sensors and engine control features, the computer in an ESC-equipped vehicle can selectively apply braking force to one or more wheels the moment the system senses a loss of directional control.
The outgrowth of the ESC was in part driven by the fact that many drivers who were able to avoid an initial accident situation sometimes steered their vehicle so rapidly that the car or truck lost control and hit something else. ESC helps to reduce the possibility of a secondary crash, thus potentially saving lives and property in the process.
For new car buyers, it’s important to note that all vehicles manufactured since September 2011 (2012 models) must be equipped with ESC. Since the technology existed for a number of years prior to the federal mandate, the NHTSA also has an online list of 2005 to 2010 models that come equipped with the technology. That particular information can be had at safecar.gov.
Stability control saving lives, NHTSA study finds; MSN.com; December 5, 2012