According to the Associated Press, a vehicle control system that has been proven in Germany to cut down dramatically on accidents is available on just 6 percent of vehicles in the United States.
Electronic stability control, a feature on one of every three vehicles in Europe, has yet to catch on among American drivers. Many have never heard of it, and that has prompted suppliers to kick off an eight-city tour in Washington, says the AP.
AP reported that suppliers of stability control systems say they hope consumer demand, not government mandates, will persuade automakers to overcome their well-known aversion to added costs and offer the system on more vehicles.
Electronic stability control, which has different trade names, is a system that applies brakes to specific tires and decelerates if it senses a driver is veering off course.
If a driver swerves to the left to avoid an animal in the road, for example, a vehicle with stability control will apply brakes to the outside front tire to prevent the vehicle from fishtailing, says AP.
Stability control is different from traction control, which keeps wheels from spinning when the driver accelerates. It's also different from all-wheel drive, which distributes energy to all four tires to increase traction, according to the AP.
Stability control was developed in Germany by Bosch Corp. and Mercedes-Benz and started appearing on luxury vehicles in the mid-1990s. In 1999, Mercedes was the first to make it standard in all its vehicles.
According to a study of German government data released last year by DaimlerChrysler AG, accident rates for Mercedes vehicles in Germany fell by 29 percent between 1999 and 2000 after stability control became standard, the AP reported.
In 1999, Mercedes vehicles were in 15,000 crashes, while in 2000 they were in 10,600 crashes. In 2001, Mercedes vehicles were in 10,700 crashes, the study said. Crash rates for all other vehicles remained steady during that time, the study said.
Spurred by such data, Europe has adopted stability control much faster than the United States.