More money buys more safety. It’s a common misconception shared by many car buyers, but it’s not necessarily true. Take electronic stability control (ESC) systems, for example, which are standard or optional equipment on high-line brands like BMW and Jaguar. However, ESC is also available on cars like the Kia Amanti, the Hyundai Tucson, and the Toyota Corolla, all of which are relatively low-priced vehicles.
In basic terms, ESC includes sensors that gauge a vehicle’s response to the driver’s steering input. If ESC determines that the vehicle is not responding appropriately, the system applies braking pressure to individual or all four wheels as necessary to maintain control. Some SUVs add roll stability control, which uses sensors to determine if a rollover is imminent and activates ESC accordingly.
The IIHS suggests that electronic stability control cuts single-car crash fatalities by as much as 56 percent. Based on the roughly 14,000 single-car crash fatalities in 2003, the IIHS estimates that more than 7,000 people could be saved each year if every vehicle on the road was equipped with ESC.