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How to buy a safe car

It’s time to buy a new car, truck or mini-van. What can you do to make sure the vehicle you buy for yourself, your spouse or a teenage son or daughter is safe? How can you put your head on the pillow at night with confidence that you’ve done what you can for your loved-ones—just in case an accident happens? In the following commentary we will provide you with information and sources of information to help you do just that.

Vehicle Steering and Handling Safety Features
Safety research shows that accidents often happen because drivers are unable to safely control vehicles either from a steering or braking standpoint. From this perspective alone, and in an effort to reduce the risk of accidents, there is one significant safety feature which will unquestionably minimize these potential tragedies.

Electronic Stability Control
ESC uses sensors in the car (wheel speed sensors, steering wheel position sensors, yaw sensors, etc.) to determine which direction the driver wants the car to go, and compares that to which way the car is actually going. If the system senses that a skid is imminent or has already started — in other words, that the car is not going in the direction the driver is telling it to go — it can apply the brakes on individual wheels to bring the car back under control. Because the system can brake individual wheels, whereas the driver can only brake all four wheels at once, ESC can recover from skids that a human driver can’t.

Electronic stability control is a safety feature that detects and prevents (or recovers from) skids. ESC can help keep the driver from losing control of the car in a panic swerve or when driving on slippery roads. A government study showed that ESC reduced single-vehicle crashes by 34% for cars and 59% for SUVs. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates that ESC reduces the risk of fatal single-vehicle wrecks by 56% and fatal multiple-vehicle crashes by 32%. Because of its proven effectiveness, the US Government has mandated that all new cars must be equipped with ESC by the 2012 model year. Different manufacturers use different names for their electronic stability control systems.

Among them:

  • Electronic Stability Program (ESP)
  • StabiliTrak
  • Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA)
  • Vehicle Stability Control (VSC)
  • Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC)
  • Dynamic Stability Control (DSC)
  • AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control

In shopping, you must ask whether the brand new vehicle or used vehicle includes ESC. As shown below, even for model year 2011, many passenger cars do not include ESC as standard or optional equipment.

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