Keep Our Families SafeNew Concerns About SUV Rollover
Be careful, the SUV you’re driving may be prone to rolling over.
According to recent government test results from the National Highway Safety Administration (NHSA), the rear-wheel-drive model of the Ford Explorer, the nation’s best-selling SUV, is prone to rolling over.
This news comes right on the heels of a $369 million judgment for a San Diego woman who was paralyzed in an Explorer rollover accident.
Several other popular SUVs also tipped over during government safety tests: the Chevrolet Tahoe, the GMC Yukon, and the rear-wheel-drive version of the Mercury Mountaineer.
These test results should serve as a warning that SUVs are not as safe as many consumers believe. Overall, SUVs and pickup trucks have a higher fatality rate for their occupants than passenger cars and substantially a higher rate than minivans.
This is a problem that will not be going away any time soon. The Explorer in the San Diego woman’s recent lawsuit was a 1997 model. The government used a 2004 model in its tests.
Even more significant is that these latest tests were the first rollover tests conducted on a track. Previously, the NHSA used a mathematical calculation to determine a vehicle’s rollover risk.
In these new tests, vehicles were driven through 10 fishhook maneuvers, which are a jarring series of turns designed to replicate what happens when drivers veer off the road and then overcompensate as they try to recover. The tests are conducted at vehicle speeds between 35 and 50 miles an hour.
Not surprisingly, automakers cite drivers and not the vehicles as the real rollover problem.
Consumer groups are urging that vehicle rollover be addressed as a design problem and are calling on the federal government to require that vehicles meet a specific minimum rollover performance standard. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), has proposed this in a bill currently before Congress. It is unclear if or when any action will be taken on it, however.
In the meantime, SUV drivers should exercise caution while driving their vehicles. In addition, drivers should of course use their seat belts and they should also take special care to avoid driving while distracted or overly fatigued.