There has been an advance in auto safety in the last decade or so that I think every parent should be aware of. Field tests indicate that it prevents about 1/3 of fatalities. That means it's the best thing since the seat belt. But unlike seat beats it's not retrofittable. Also unlike seabeats, it tends to prevent the crash, so you don't just walk away from the crash, you typically drive away from a crash that never happened without a scratch on your car.
The advance is called electronic stability control (ESC) or just stability control. But it has dozens of product names.
ESC has been introduced over the last 15 years. It was available only on luxury cars before 2000 but it became mandatory for the 2012 model year.
If this is news to you, welcome to Future Shock!
ESC is built on top of ABS. ABS provides actuators that allow all 4 tires to be braked independently. ESC adds a MEMS gyroscope and a steering wheel position sensor so that the onset of oversteer (fishtailing) and understeer can be detected automatically. It detects when a car is starting to to not go in the intended direction. It brakes the wheels independently to prevent the car from skidding out of control.
The EU as an awareness campaign (www.chooseesc.eu
), but it's got a relatively low profile in the US.
Older, smaller, economy-oriented cars tended to be the last to have ESC as standard. But these are the very cars that we tend to pass on to our children as their first car.
If you are in the market for a used car, you can specify "stability" as a search term at www.cars.com
. You can sort the cars by cheapest first to locate relatively inexpensive used cars with ESC. But this list will not be completely accurate, some of the cars on the list may not have ESC. Check here to confirm ESC on a model:
But no source is completely accurate, so you ultimately should confirm that there is the dash icon appears at start up and that the vehicle has an Off button. Check the owner's manual for where to look for the icon and Off button (if there is an off button). (Also, the owner's manual will list the rare instances where ESC should be turned off.)
You will likely find some older SUVs on the list of relatively cheap cars with ESC. SUV-phobia is now outdated. There is an IIHS study that provides evidence that SUVs with ESC may be safer than sedans: