The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) has published a notice of proposed rulemaking for electronic stability control (ESC) as a standard feature on all new cars and trucks by the 2012 model year in the Federal Register.

The proposed rule would require all automotive manufacturers to start installing ESC on passenger vehicles under 10,000 lbs. in the 2009 model year, with the system becoming a standard feature on all vehicles by the 2012 model year.

NHTSA Administrator Nicole Nason said ESC systems use automatic computer-controlled braking of individual wheels to help the driver maintain control in situations where the vehicle would skid. She noted a 2004 study by NHTSA that analyzed 40,000 crashes over a six-year period and found that ESC could reduce fatalities in single-vehicle crashes by 30% for passenger cars and 63% for sport utility vehicles (SUVs).

“[ESC] is the greatest life-saving improvement since the safety belt,” Nason said, noting it could save from 5,300 to 10,300 lives annually and prevent from 168,000 to 252,000 injuries. The average cost to make ESC a standard feature, according to NHTSA’s research, is estimated to be $111 per vehicle on vehicles that already include ABS brakes.

To view the NPRM, go to