Jul 9, 2020

How to Stay Safer In an SUV

Although increases in SUV safety over the years have helped in avoiding rollovers and roof crushing of vehicle occupants, top-heavy vehicles still have a higher center of gravity than most passenger cars. Because of this, people who drive SUVs need to pay particular attention to their driving habits and curtail behavior that increases the chance of a rollover. If not, they remain at grave risk for a rollover and roof crush.

I am attorney Michael Ehline. I have been featured in Newsweek Magazine and other publications as a top personal injury lawyer in Los Angeles. Below I have provided some tips to help avoid SUV accidents, injuries inherent in them, statistical data, and what to do after such an accident occurs.

Some Important Information and Tips About SUV Safety.

To minimize the risk of a rollover crash and severe injury, drivers should:

  1. Always wear seat belts, which dramatically reduce the risk of being killed or seriously injured.
  2. Avoid conditions that may lead to loss of control, such as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  3. Exercise more caution during inclement weather, on curved roads and roads with soft shoulders.
  4. Avoid over-correction when steering.
  5. Make sure tires are properly maintained, including air pressure and tread life.
  6. Consult the owner's manual to determine maximum safe loads and proper load distribution since loading may increase the likelihood of a rollover accident.

Manufacturers, on the other hand, must also take responsibility for rollovers involving their cars, trucks, vans, and SUVs. Not only must manufacturers take significant steps to minimize the risk of a rollover crash occurring in the first instance, but they must also minimize the risk of injury to occupants involved in a rollover (also known as “crashworthiness”).

Thus, to take responsibility, manufacturers have a duty to:

  1. Engineer the vehicles to be crashworthy and minimize the potential for serious injury to occupants.
  2. Make cars, trucks, vans, and SUVs less top-heavy.
  3. Design control and stability systems that properly react to driver steering and braking, and respond to improper movement of the vehicle to anticipate and alleviate rollover.
  4. Appropriately warn consumers of hazards and risks associated with rollover propensity, including particular models and vehicles, tire inflation, vehicle loading, etc.

The Rollover Resistance Ratings* of the vehicles below were compared to 220,000 actual single-vehicle crashes, and the ratings were found to relate very closely to the real-world rollover experience of vehicles.

Crash Testing for Frontal Collisions?

For frontal testing collisions, crash-test dummies are placed in the driver and front passenger seats and secured with the vehicle’s seat belts. Vehicles are crashed into a fixed barrier at 35 miles per hour (mph), which is equivalent to a head-on collision between two identical vehicles, each moving at 35 mph. Since the test reflects a crash between two identical vehicles, you can only compare vehicles from the same weight class when looking at frontal crash protection ratings.

Instruments measure the force of impact to each dummy’s head, chest, and legs. The resulting information indicates a belted person’s chances of incurring a serious injury in the event of a crash. In the explanation of ratings below*, a severe injury is one requiring immediate hospitalization and may be life-threatening.

  • Five stars = 10% or less chance of serious injury.
  • Four stars = 11% to 20% chance of serious injury.
  • Three stars = 21% to 35% chance of serious injury.
  • Two stars = 36% to 45% chance of serious injury.
  • One star = 46% or higher chance of serious injury.

Crash Testing for Side Collisions.

For side collisions, testing represents an intersection-type collision with a 3,015-pound barrier moving at 38.5 mph into a standing vehicle. The barrier is covered with crushable material to replicate the front of a car. Star ratings indicate the chance of a life-threatening chest injury for the driver, front-seat passenger, and the rear seat passenger. Still, these tests don't evaluate head injuries to vehicle occupants.

As with the front impact ratings, a severe injury is one requiring immediate hospitalization and may be life-threatening. Since the same size barrier impacts all tested vehicles, it is possible to compare cars from the different weight classes when looking at side crash protection ratings.*

  • Five stars = 5% or less chance of serious injury.
  • Four stars = 6% to 10% likelihood of serious injury.
  • Three stars = 11% to 20% chance of serious injury.
  • Two stars = 21% to 25% chance of serious injury.
  • One star = 26% or higher chance of serious injury.

*Caution should be exercised with NHTSA's rollover resistance report as it did not study the effects of SUVs on actual road test conditions. Therefore it may not have all of the critical differences in emergency handling caused by varying suspension designs, shocks, tires, average passenger & cargo loads, road conditions, steering response, or the presence of an electronic stability-control system.

Above we determined that SUVs have a higher center of gravity than ordinary automobiles. Because of this, they can roll over more comfortably than regular motor vehicles. We also covered steps to avoid rollovers while driving an SUV. And last, we included the statistics proving the risks are real and not imagined. Please read our page about SUV rollovers to learn more about your legal rights and remedies after an SUV accident.


"[Senate Hearing 108-901] [From the U.S. Government Printing Office] S. Hrg. 108-901 SUV SAFETY: ISSUES RELATING TO THE SAFETY AND DESIGN OF SPORT UTILITY VEHICLES": https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/CHRG-108shrg96510/html/CHRG-108shrg96510.htm

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