Sports utility vehicles or SUVs have been around in some form since the mid-1930s, but over the years, auto manufacturers have improved on original wagon-based designs. Since then, the SUV as we know it has become a standard for many American families. However, this family-friendly all-terrain vehicle is not without its share of serious flaws, especially when it comes to rollover accidents.
In the spring of 2005, one SUV rollover case proved to be particularly damaging to the Ford Motor Company when a crash resulted in fatal injuries. Despite the damage, evidence that the company had been lowering its standards through the late 1990s was sealed by the court. That evidence highlighted the fact that Ford’s popular SUV model, the Explorer, performed poorly in rollover crashes due in part to the vehicle’s weakened roof compared with other models. The “smoking gun” exhibits were sealed by the court at the request of Ford itself. In December 2005, trial lawyers for Public Justice and Public Citizen challenged the court’s decision.
The Impact of SUV Rollover Crashes
In February 2006, a study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that SUV design directly impacted safety. Hollow, impact-absorbing bars incorporated below a vehicle’s bumpers, as well as lowering an SUV by half an inch, resulted in almost half as many side-impact deaths. Simple design changes kept more drivers and passengers safe from side-impact collisions.
There’s a higher risk in driving SUVs due to the way that they’re constructed. Those who drive an SUV may face a greater chance of injury or death, so it’s important to understand the risks associated with these heavier, less stable vehicles. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or NHTSA:
- More than half of all single-vehicle crash deaths came from rollover crashes.
- Compared to crashes that don’t result in the vehicle rolling over, rollover crashes cause substantially greater injuries. Occupants are 36 percent more likely to suffer from serious injuries as a result of rollovers.
- During a rollover crash, occupants are more likely to get a head injury than any other type of injury. Head trauma accounts for both nonfatal and fatal injuries in rollover crashes, making these types of crashes particularly serious.
- Single-vehicle crashes account for over 90 percent of rollover crashes in passenger vehicles. Of 10,142 occupant deaths reported, 8,345 of those happened in single-vehicle rollover crashes.
The Challenges of Making SUVs Safer
The NHTSA statistics are grim, but proper assessment and greater understanding of an SUV’s inherent dangers can help to prevent, reduce or mitigate injury and death from rollover accidents. Several factors affect a vehicle’s responsiveness and durability. Sports utility vehicles face several challenges, including:
- Higher center of gravity
- Additional weight
- Fewer rollover protections
SUVs are built with narrower tracks, and they have a higher center of gravity than many other vehicles. This combination makes them susceptible to rollovers during a corrective action, such as swerving to avoid highway debris. These vehicles are also top-heavy and more likely to tip over. Originally designed as off-roading vehicles meant for a wide range of terrains, SUVs have become the go-to standard for large families instead. Unfortunately, automakers have not compensated for this change in use. Larger loads of people and equipment make these cars less stable.
Additionally, manufacturers have not included roll bars in the design of SUVs. Once automakers realized that families were more likely to use sports utility vehicles than any other demographic, they stopped using the original roll bar design. A higher center of gravity, extra weight and lack of rollover protections make SUVs more dangerous during rollover incidents.
If your loved one has been injured or died from an accident caused by a rollover there is a legal deadline for filing these lawsuits, so call NOW toll free 1-888-888-3773. The consultation and call are FREE.