Manufacturers would have to equip large trucks and buses with safety systems that help prevent rollover accidents through computer-controlled braking, under regulations proposed Wednesday by the government.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's proposal would require electronic stability control in new trucks and buses, including motorcoaches.
The safety system senses when a driver might lose control and automatically applies brakes to individual wheels to keep the vehicle stable and avoid a rollover. It helps prevent skidding across icy or slick roads, and helps motorists keep control when swerving to avoid an unexpected object in the road. The individual wheel braking counters over-steering and under-steering.
Government research shows the technology could prevent up to 56 percent of rollover crashes each year _ the deadliest among all crash types _ and another 14 percent of loss-of-control crashes.
NHTSA estimates that a standard requiring the safety systems on large trucks and large buses would prevent up to 2,329 crashes, eliminate an estimated 649 to 858 injuries, and prevent between 49 and 60 fatalities a year.
The safety systems are already required in passenger cars, sport utility vehicles and light trucks, beginning with the current model year. But the safety systems have been available in all SUVs and many passenger cars for years.
"We've already seen how effective stability control can be at reducing rollovers in passenger vehicles," NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said in a statement. "Now, we're expanding our efforts to require stability enhancing technology on the many large trucks, motor coaches, and other large buses on our roadways."
Safety advocates welcomed the proposal.
"Rollover crashes can be costly and catastrophic, especially when involving a large truck weighing 80,000 pounds or a motorcoach carrying as many as 54 passengers," Jacqueline Gillan, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, said.
Preventing a rollover is essential to protecting motorcoach occupants, she said. Motorcoaches have become the over-the-road passenger airlines for millions of families, students, seniors and church groups, with nearly 750 million trips taken each year.
David Champion, senior director of automotive testing for Consumer Reports, has called electronic stability control "the single most important advance in auto safety since the development of the seatbelt."
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