WASHINGTON — The government plans to issue requirements next month that new vehicles include anti-rollover technology, officials said Thursday.
Nicole Nason, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, told a congressional budget panel that electronic stability control technology would be mandated on all new passenger vehicles by 2011.
The safety administration estimates that the technology may save 5,000 to 9,600 lives a year once it is fully deployed in the vehicle fleet, which will take more than a decade after the rules go into effect.
Anti-rollover technologies have been cited as one way to reduce the more than 43,000 traffic fatalities in the United States annually. Rollover accidents account for one-third of all fatalities, even though only 3% of vehicle crashes are rollovers.
"Crash-avoidance technologies like [electronic stability control] are just the beginning of what we hope is a new era in highway safety, where many crashes and the pain and suffering from those crashes are prevented outright," Nason said.
Electronic stability control senses when a driver may lose control of the vehicle and automatically applies brakes to individual wheels to help make it stable and avoid a rollover.
Many automobiles, including sport utility vehicles, already have the technology, and several automakers have announced plans to include the technology.
Some safety groups have said the proposed rule, first announced last year, would not deploy the technology into new vehicles fast enough and did not require the most stringent performance standards.
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, an organization supported by consumer, health and safety groups and insurance companies, wrote in November that the traffic safety administration had proposed a minimal standard for stability control that accommodated all existing electronic stability control systems while taking into account higher safety benefits from superior systems to reach its estimated reduction of deaths and injuries.
But Ronald Medford, the safety agency's senior associate administrator, said Thursday that the technology was continuing to improve and the number of lives saved could be better than projections indicated.
Separately, Nason said the agency was looking more seriously at requiring seat belts on commercial buses and planned to seek comments on the issue. Five Ohio college baseball players were killed in a March 2 bus crash in Atlanta, along with the driver and his wife.