Electronic Stability Control (ESC) selectively applies brakes to individual wheels to help keep the vehicle under control when swerving to avoid an accident or cornering on slippery pavement, and it can help a vehicle stay out of a situation that could lead to a rollover.
By model year 2012, the government will require automakers to include ESC on passenger vehicles. If all cars had ESC, some 10,000 lives a year could be saved, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Current equipped models are involved in 36 percent fewer fatal passenger-car crashes and 63 percent fewer fatal SUV, van, and pickup-truck crashes than vehicles without ESC, federal officials say. Unfortunately, stability control is available mainly on higher-priced vehicles; many small, inexpensive cars don't offer it.
ESC is so important that Consumer Reports calls it the “single greatest advance in auto safety since the safety belt.” In fact, Consumer Reports, which has been rating cars since 1948, believes ESC is so critical to the safety of all drivers and passengers that they've revised their rating system to give it greater weight.