Electronic Stability Control (ESC): The importance of the ESC safety feature becomes VERY APPARENT when you start to lose control on snow or ice. The ESC helps a driver retain control on slippery roads or when a driver needs to steer around an obstacle (like a fallen tree) at high speeds. As with anti-lock braking systems, ESC compares your intended steering and braking direction to the vehicle’s response related to side and turning acceleration and individual wheel speeds. The ESC can then apply the brakes to individual front or rear wheels and/or decrease engine power to help correct under- or over- steer conditions. It also controls the “all-speed traction control” by sensing drive-wheel slip during acceleration and individually applies the brake to the slipping wheel(s), and/or reduces the engine power until control is regained. Studies have shown ESC can reduce the risk of rollover, especially in sports utility vehicles (SUVs), some vans, and pickup trucks, due to their higher center of gravity. ESC is now a “standard safety feature” on most vehicles with a high roll-over risk. Though ESC cannot prevent a crash in all situations, it definitely helps avoid some! The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that if ALL vehicles had ESC, about 10,000 fatal crashes could be avoided each year!
Traction Control (TC) Systems: TC (also called ASR – Acceleration Slip Regulation) is designed to prevent loss of traction from the drive wheels when the gas pedal is applied too fast by the driver. When a wheel “slips,” TC senses this and continually adjusts the braking pressure to ensure maximum tire-to-road contact. This is especially useful on icy and/or wet roads to prevent a loss of control. The best way to understand TC is that it’s the reverse or opposite of ABS (anti-lock braking system), as TC limits over acceleration while ABS prevents too much deceleration. For example, when a light turns from red to green and the pavement is icy and the wheel(s) begin to slip, TC will instantaneously slow the wheel(s) down to eliminate the spinning.
Daytime Running Lights (DRL): These are lights that automatically switch on when a vehicle is moving, typically emitting white, yellow, or amber light. This is a low-cost method to improve the visibility of a vehicle with the objective to reduce daytime crashes.
OTHERS: Blind Spot Detection Systems are usually markers on the side of the rear-view mirrors to help drivers keep track of nearby motorists in blind spots. If another car is in a blind spot and a driver activates their turn signal, the system will alert the driver with a sound or light to bring the other vehicle to their attention. This is projected to reduce approximately 450,000 crash cases per year! Another is the Back-up Warning System which sounds an alarm if an object or person is behind the vehicle. Similarly, a Forward Collision Warning with Automatic Braking detects when a driver is about to collide into a vehicle in front by sounding an alarm, flashing a light, or both. The brakes are automatically applied to warn drivers of a hazard. The Lane Departure Warning system warns you that you’re drifting out of your lane by a sound, light, and/or steering wheel vibration. Some system will even nudge you back into your lane!
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