Over the weekend, wet roads contributed to a rollover accident in DeFuniak Springs. As reported by the Northwest Florida Daily News, an unidentified driver was travelling east on I-10 near the intersection with U.S. Highway 331. The accident occurred around noon on Sunday, during heavy rainfall, and the vehicle rolled across I-10's westbound lanes before landing in the woods. Walton County Fire Rescue Chief Brian Coley expressed wonder that the driver, who was taken to the hospital but whose injuries were not serious, was okay, and he urged travelers to slow down on wet roads. Our Panama City rollover crash law firm wishes the driver a quick and complete recovery, a wish we extend to all those injured in crashes during the recent inclement weather.
At one time, there seemed to be an epidemic of rollover crashes on U.S. roads. SUVs, considered safe in many other respects, were particularly vulnerable to rollovers. As the recent headline makes clear, rollovers do happen in 2013. Thankfully, however, they are less common than they were even a short decade ago. In large part, this is due to the use of Electronic Stability Control ("ESC"), a technology first associated with SUVs that has since spread to include most forms of motor vehicles.
ESC technology (discussed by an automotive journalist on About.com and by a Department of Transportation project on safe vehicles) helps to detect and prevent loss of driver control, avoiding skids and spins that could lead to a rollover event. ESC helps maintain traction (although does not actually increase traction) and prevent swerving due to slippery roads, driver panic, or other potentially dangerous scenarios.
When the system senses a skid is about to occur (or has begun), ESC applies the brakes to individual wheels in order to bring the car back to the proper heading and return control to the driver. ESC also includes a series of sensors that allow it to gauge the driver's intended direction. Since ESC can operate the brakes on individual wheels, it is able to recover from skids in a manner a driver, who only has an "all or nothing" braking option, cannot. ESC operates quickly, preventing driver panic from adding to the situation. The SaferCars site includes two short clips demonstrating the effect of ESC.
A 2006 IIHS report highlighted the efficacy of ESC systems. The research found ESC could prevent nearly a third of all fatal multi-vehicle crashes and more than half of all fatal single-vehicle crashes. Most dramatically, the 2006 study found ESC reduced fatal single-vehicle rollovers by 77% in cars and 80% in SUVs. For the 2006 model year, ESC came standard on 40% of vehicles and as an option on an additional 15%. The report quoted an IIHS official suggesting that ESC be made standard on all vehicles, noting that "[v]ery few safety technologies show this kind of large effect in reducing crash deaths." The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration took heed and ESC became mandatory on most vehicles as of the 2012 model year.
What began with public concern over SUV safety led to innovation and a technology that has helped lessen the threat of rollover crashes. As your Panama City accident law firm, we often note that bringing a personal injury case not only helps the victim recover money damages but can also carry a safety lesson. These lessons can alter individual behavior and can even bring about a large-scale safety change. Rollovers still happen, and it is important to investigate the cause of such events and protect innocent victims, but ESC systems save lives because people were not willing to sit back and watch a dangerous trend unfold.