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Increased Risk of Rollover Crashes in SUV's

Rollovers are an inevitable occurrence on the nation’s highways and streets. The problem is becoming more acute because of the increased number of light trucks and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) on the road. These vehicles have a substantially higher propensity to roll over than cars. The height of SUVs, along with other factors, contributes to a rollover fatality rate of 98 per million registered vehicles, compared with only 44 per million registered vehicles for all other light vehicle types.

Accidents involving rollovers occur for a variety of reasons, including icy or slippery road surfaces; tripping mechanisms such as a curb, berm or gutter; uneven terrain; and, vehicle instability. It is the last category that concerns most critics since passenger vehicles should be forgiving of all kinds of events or driver errors, but when a vehicle is inherently unstable due to its design and high center of gravity, that is a design defect that the manufacturer should have remedied before introducing the vehicle to the public.

There are some huge misconceptions which the car makers have relied upon to sell SUVs to an unsuspecting public:

  • Consumers believe that the bigger SUVs are safer because they are driving higher up and better able to see traffic and the situation around them. However, the higher they sit, the higher the center of gravity, and this means the vehicle is less stable.

  • Bigger tires are not better on passenger cars. Larger tires raise the height of the vehicle and this makes it less stable. The larger tires also narrow the distance between the tires (track width), and this also raises the center of gravity.

  • The more you load the vehicle (with your children, luggage, the dog, groceries, bikes, and the canoe on top), the more you increase the center of gravity and less stable the vehicle becomes.

  • Just because the SUV was manufactured, does not mean that the government has approved it. Auto makers must mean certain minimum standards when manufacturing a vehicle. This does not mean the government has approved it. Let me cite several examples: the Corvair, the Pinto, the Bronco II. Those vehicles proved to be death traps and the manufacturers still contend that there was nothing wrong with the design of those vehicles.

  • SUVs do not meet all of the safety standards imposed by the government for passenger cars.

  • Not all automakers conduct dynamic rollover testing. Chrysler, Ford, Nissan and Toyota all indicated that in 1992 when asked by the government that they did not perform rollover testing.

Auto makers like SUVs because they are highly profitable and improve their bottom line. The increased sale of SUVs in the U.S. which began with the introduction of the Explorer in 1990 has saved the American automakers who were suffering terrible loses until then. Is it any wonder they keep introducing more of them and spend so much money marketing them to the American public.

When buying a family vehicle, understand the inherent risks of a Sport Utility Vehicle and consider purchasing a vehicle that is designed for passengers on the city streets and highways of our nation.