Despite what the car industry aficionados and government may claim, SUV rollovers continue to kill and maim. Take, for example, the single-vehicle SUV rollover crash last month that killed a 23-year-old man in Southern California . In another example in a case I am handling, three people were killed on July 5, 2006 in Menlo Park, Ca when the driver’s 1998 Ford Explorer rolled over and killed them after it was cut off by a speedy teenager driving a Mustang on U.S. Highway 101. Among the victims were two members of the Tongan Royal Family: Prince Tu’ipelehake, 54 and Princess Kaimana, 45.
Just because the mainstream media has relaxed its coverage of SUV rollovers and faulty tires doesn’t mean SUVs are no longer susceptible to dangerous solo accidents caused by its top-heavy design and poorly structured roofs.
As noted in the August 2007 edition of Auto Monitor, an Indian auto trade publication, Americans’ views of car safety are “schizophrenic,” because car companies tout technology designed to prevent accidents, but fail to invest in protecting occupants who actually do end up in accidents.
Recent media reports have framed auto death rates in a positive light, noting that driver deaths per million have decreased for newer model cars. SUV’s supposedly have become safer, thanks to technologies like Electronic Stability Control.
Unfortunately, SUV drivers who blow a tire or swerve to avoid an accident are too preoccupied to be worried about national fatality rates if their car suddenly flips. Roof strength regulations rely on standards first established in 1973, which states that it must withstand 1.5 times the static force of its unloaded vehicle weight. As this study indicates, SUV roofs “crush significantly under loads that are 30 to 50 percent” the regulated standards.
Another aspect of SUV rollovers is tires. As noted in an April 2006 report by Safety Research & Strategies, tire-related fatalities in the Ford Explorers rose sharply between 2002 and 2004, well after the fallout from the 2000 tire scandal. Click here for more information on SUV rollovers.
Between vulnerable roofs and tires, the design of the SUV is something that can and should be thoroughly reviewed by automakers and regulators if fatality rates on the road are to truly improve. Meanwhile, SUV drivers should heed caution and drive with extra care while knowing that rollover accidents are a real possibility and continue to this day.
For more information on Car and Motorcycle Accidents, please refer to the section on Car and Motorcycle Accidents.