Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) rollover accidents seriously injure or kill about 10,000 people in the US each year, which is more than side and rear crashes combined. SUV and passenger vans are much more likely to rollover or flip than standard passenger vehicles. Only 3 percent of all types of vehicle crashes involve rollovers, but rollovers account for more than a third of passenger vehicle occupant deaths. This is what is so frightening about SUV accidents—they typically cause death, not just injuries.
In 2008, rollover accidents were responsible for:
- 58% of all deaths in SUVs
- 47% of deaths in trucks
- 19% of deaths in standard cars
Not only have SUV rollovers caused a significant amount of fatalities in the past, but the death toll is rising. Because of an SUV's high center of gravity, it is more suited to off-road travel, not high-speed highways. When a driver exceeds 65 miles per hour, his or her risk of having an accident increases because the vehicles were not built for high speeds. Drivers can essentially lose complete control of their vehicle due to the limitations in capabilities. Simple driving maneuvers such as avoiding an object in the road or over-steering when passing another vehicle can cause the SUV to flip over.
Vehicle Roof Problems
When a vehicle rolls over, a roof that crushes easily will harm or kill passengers more so than one that doesn't easily crush. In an attempt to reduce injuries and fatalities due to vehicle roof problems, new rules will be put into effect. Previously, according to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 216, Roof Crush Resistance, the minimum requirement for roof strength is that the roof must be strong enough to prevent a rigid plate from moving 5 inches when a force 1 ½ times the weight of the vehicle is put on it.
The new rule, established in 2009, requires that a roof withstands an applied force of 3 times the vehicle's weight while maintaining sufficient headroom for an average size adult male. Also, the new rule requires that both sides of the vehicle be tested. The old standard did not require this.
A certain percentage of each manufacturer's fleet must meet the new standards that are put into place beginning in 2013. In the past, about 44% of SUVs were exempt from roof safety standards because they exceeded the weight ratings. The previous safety standards only applied to vehicles with gross weight ratings up to 6,000 pounds. Now, the standards for roof strength apply to vehicles with GVWRs up to 10,000 pounds but the force requirements are less. Vehicles with GVWRs over 6,000 pounds only have to withstand a force equal to 1 ½ times their weight.
The new rules aimed at making driving SUVs safer have only helped minimally. SUV rollover accidents will still continue to occur and will still be extremely dangerous or fatal for passengers. Automakers are expected to oppose any sweeping changes to the roof-strength requirements for cars and trucks, which could add cost and weight to millions of vehicles. This means that deadly rollover accidents will still be occurring in SUVs.
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