- Helping you drive happy

More safety features become standard on GM cars

General Motors will make a pair of important life-saving technologies standard on all of its products in Canada and the U.S. beginning in the 2007 model year that will save untold lives, and is garnering praise from government and medical agencies for the decision.

Electronic stability control and the OnStar safety and security system will be standard on virtually every retail model GM sells in less than two years, save for some commercial vehicles. But every vehicle from GM will have both systems by the end of the decade.

As a bonus, because they are enablers of electronic stability control, antilock brakes and traction control will also become standard as well.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was particularly impressed with the decision on stability control, and a coalition of emergency medicine and public health care officials were greatly pleased by the expansion of OnStar.

In a tumble-down affect, it's likely that GM's decision to make stability control standard on all of its model will prompt its competitors to make a similar move, so even more lives should be saved as a result.

Unfortunately for their owners, no other car company has developed a safety and security system like OnStar, so they aren't able to respond to GM's move.

OnStar has already saved scores of lives and should save even more as it gains acceptance among users. Amongst its other services, OnStar can greatly reduce the amount of time that it takes to get emergency personnel to the precise scene of a crash (even if the vehicle occupants can't call themselves, or are out of cell phone range), and that can be mean fewer crash deaths.

GM's stability control system is called StabiliTrak, and it helps a driver maintain vehicle control during challenging or unexpected driving conditions, such as ice, snow, wet pavement and emergency lane changes or avoidance maneuvers.

Several independent studies has credited stability control with dramatically decreasing the number of single-vehicle crashes, especially those resulting from a loss of control. As a result, many lives have already been saved, and many more are expected to be saved by GM's decision.

Currently available on more than 50 GM models, OnStar is recognized as the automotive industry benchmark for safety, security and information services, and has been credited with helping to save scores of lives. OnStar features include alerting emergency services when air bags deploy, assisting authorities in locating stolen vehicles, and remotely unlocking doors when keys are left inside.

''Quicker response to emergencies saves lives,'' says Dr. Robert Bass, a board member of ComCARE, an alliance of U.S. emergency medical and public safety officers. ''By shaving minutes or more off emergency response times, and providing exact location, telematics systems like OnStar have the potential to reduce death and permanent injury on North America's roads and highways, whether the emergency is a heart attack or a crash. Systems like OnStar are excellent first steps in getting the right response faster to the scene of an emergency on the road.''

''These moves are consistent with GM's continuing effort to strengthen its brands, build on our history of innovation and leverage our global capabilities," says GM North America President Gary Cowger.

''Only GM offers a full range of cars, trucks and SUVs that provide safety protection before, during and -- thanks to OnStar -- after a crash," Cowger says.

Cowger pointed out that, except for seatbelts, ''we have rarely seen a technology that brings such a positive safety benefit as electronic stability control. Offering OnStar and StabiliTrak standard is another way to provide our customers an impressive combination of value, safety and peace of mind.''