Why SUV Rollovers Are So Common

Sports utility vehicles ("SUVs") present potentially significant hazards to occupants of passenger vehicles involved in collisions with them. In fact, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's statistics comparing individuals killed in SUV and passenger car crashes indicate that, since 1995, almost 98 percent were passenger vehicle occupants.

Since 1992, because of the greater height and weight of SUVs, crashes between cars and SUVs have more frequently resulted in fatalities than collisions between two cars. SUVs are heavier and taller, and as a result, they ride above most cars' safety "crumple zones." Consequently, in a collision, an SUV can penetrate a car's passenger compartment. Because of the unique qualities of SUVs, the occupants of a car in a collision with an SUV are six times more likely to be killed than in a crash with another car.

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The Risk Of Rollover Crashes In SUVs

In 1975, Congress passed the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, which established Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) standards to force car manufacturers to increase vehicle fuel economy. In order to comply with CAFÉ standards, auto makers gradually reduced the weight of small and mid-size passenger vehicles. Weight was reduced by substituting lightweight plastic for steel in bumpers and other impact-absorbing structures.

As a result, passenger cars have become lighter and more vulnerable to SUVs and trucks with higher clearances. Passenger car occupants have much higher risk factors for serious injury and death when involved in accidents with SUVs. The high center of gravity of SUVs also makes them more likely to roll over during quick maneuvers to avoid an accident at highway speeds.

Statistics show that in all but the heaviest SUVs, occupants have higher death rates in single-vehicle accidents. The principal factor is vehicle rollover. NHTSA reports indicate that, in fatal vehicle collisions, SUVs rolled over 37 percent of the time, whereas passenger vehicles only had a 15 percent rollover rate.

SUV Rollover Accident Statistics

According to statistics, 53 percent of deaths of SUV occupants in single-vehicle crashes are the result of rollover accidents. Only 19 percent of occupant fatalities in passenger cars resulted from rollover crashes. Although a variety of SUV makes and models pose a risk of rollover accidents, the Ford Explorer seems to raise the greatest concern of a deadly rollover.

Of almost 6,000 accidents involving a single vehicle in Florida, the Ford Explorer posed a 13 percent higher risk of rollover as compared to other SUVs, according to a study published by The Washington Post. Executives at Ford Motor Company placed blame for the rollovers on the Firestone tires that, until the summer of 2001, were standard equipment on Ford Explorers. However, according to the Post's accident analysis, rollover crashes in Ford Explorers were just as likely when the vehicles were equipped with brands of tire other than Firestone. Based on this fact, the study determined that "an unstable suspension design" and an excessively high center of gravity were more likely the cause of the Explorer's rollover tendency. Not surprisingly, the suspension was redesigned in the 2002 Ford Explorer and Ford reduced the vehicle's ground clearance by several inches.

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To schedule a free consultation with one of our knowledgeable auto accident attorneys, call 916-596-2761 or contact us by email. Home and weekend appointments are available. We handle cases on a contingency basis, which means you do not pay us until we win.

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