SUV rollover accidents have received a lot of press since the Bridgestone/Firestone fatalities in 2001. There were 271 deaths and over 800 injuries linked to the defective tires that often caused the Ford Explorers to rollover. The rollover accident settlements have involved millions of dollars thus far. Still, SUV popularity continued to climb and the dangers connected to the vehicles alongside continuous reports of fatal rollover accidents failed to affect the oversized vehicles’ sales.
When SUV rollover ratings came out shortly after the Bridgestone/ Firestone reports in 2002, none of the SUVs included received a 4 or 5 star rollover rating. The lack of improvement despite the SUV rollover accident settlement cases and negative publicity still did not make a dent in sales and popularity. Years after the rollover accident settlements involving the Explorer and Firestone tires, U-Haul announced in January 2004 it was forbidding its stores to rent trailers to customers who plan to tow with the Ford Explorer.
The company’s decision came because it said it could no longer afford to defend product liability lawsuits that involved SUV rollover accident settlements. In September 2003, U-Haul was involved in a lawsuit and Bridgestone /Firestone ended up with the SUV rollover accident settlement resolving outside of court. Three individuals had been injured after their Explorer turned over when pulling a U-Haul.
Over the years, SUV rollover accidents have continued to come under attack. Public Citizen consumer group has been especially aggressive in lobbying for stricter safety standards. The industry has finally responded, but not adequately according to the group. In December 2003, the group issued a statement regarding the inadequacy of the automobile industry’s announcement to implement a voluntary program of safety tests they believe will lead to increased vehicle compatibility and require that most vehicles be equipped with side-impact air bags by 2009.
The known dangers of SUVs, including rollover has been well documented for years and Public Citizens think the voluntary program is “a diversionary tactic to stave off meaningful federal regulation and standards which consumers can rely on.” Based purely on past “voluntary programs”, evidence demonstrates these measures will not be sufficient to ensuring safety according to the consumer group.
In 2003, reports showed that the latest SUV safety ratings still failed to award any SUV tested with the federal agency’s highest safety rating of five stars. In addition, SUV rollover deaths increased over 14% from the previous year, yet new sales in 1985 compared to 2003 jumped from 2% to 25%. As the number of rollover accident settlements increase, perhaps the pressure on the automobile industry to implement stricter safety standards will result.
Several factors are involved in SUV Rollovers, including:
- Speed – the higher rate of speed an SUV is traveling, the higher the possibility of a rollover.
- Location – nearly 75% of fatal rollovers occur in rural areas where there are no protective barriers on roads.
- Weather – in rainy weather slick streets may cause the operator of an SUV to lose control of vehicle.
- Tires – some kinds of tires respond poorly to different or altering terrains.
- Alcohol or Drugs – an operator under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
In 2002, according to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an estimated 58,000 people were injured in rollovers. Nearly 2,500 people were killed due to injuries related to SUV rollovers. With the soaring popularity of SUV’s, this high death rate and high injury rate is a factor that has to be taken into consideration
Below are some safety precautions for your consideration:
- Do not drive under the influence of alcohol or any intoxicating substance
- Do not exceed the speed limit
- Always wear your seat belt
- Use proper turn signals when changing lanes