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SUV Rollovers fatalities

Improving drivers' safety has been an ongoing concern for car manufacturers, lawmakers, and citizen drivers. Each year, car accidents are the cause of 42,000 fatalities, making them a major cause of death in this country. In the late 1990's and early 2000's, the popularity of sport utility vehicles ("SUVs") skyrocketed, partly due to the fact that people felt safer driving in large cars. It quickly became apparent, however, that SUVs have a dramatically higher risk of rolling over in an accident than other passenger cars.

Rollover accidents are especially dangerous because they involve more points of impact and a higher likelihood of being thrown from the vehicle. According to the National Center for Statistics and Analysis ("NCSA"), deaths are more likely to occur in rollover accidents than in other types of crashes. In 2000, NCSA reported that while only 3% of passenger vehicles involved in accidents had rolled over, rollovers accounted for 20% of passenger vehicles involved in fatal crashes. These statistics made it clear that the rollover risk for SUVs possibly outweighed any perceived benefits.

The reason SUVs are more likely to roll over has to do with stability. The stability of a vehicle is related to the position of its center of gravity and the distance between the left and right wheels, called the "track width". The higher a vehicle's center of gravity, and the more narrow the track width, the higher the likelihood a vehicle will roll over. SUVs are more likely to roll over in an accident because the center of gravity is higher than in smaller passenger cars. The problem is compounded when SUVs carry heavy loads, which makes them more top-heavy and likely to roll over in a serious accident.

The first action taken by the National Highway Travel Safety Association ("NHTSA") was its 2001 introduction of a rollover rating system to evaluate the potential risk of rollovers for different cars. The five-star system combines engineering analysis of vehicles' center of gravity and track width, along with police accident reports. A vehicle with five stars has a less than 10% rollover risk, while a vehicle rating of one star indicates a rollover risk of more than 40%. This provided consumers with more information to help them make informed decisions when purchasing a vehicle.

The next measure was even more effective. In 2006, the NHTSA proposed a rule that would require Electronic Stability Control ("ESC") on all passenger cars sold in the country. The risk of a rollover is dramatically reduced by ESC systems, which helps drivers retain control over the vehicle. ESC works by reducing engine speed and rapidly applying the brakes to individual wheels for fractions of a second. As of the 2012 model year, U.S. law requires that all passenger cars and light trucks sold must have ESC as a standard feature. Now, for a vehicle to be chosen as an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ("IIHS") Top Safety Pick, it must have stability control.

ESC has had a dramatic effect on the rollover rate for SUVs, as well as the fatality rate. Nevertheless, IIHS warns that not all stability systems are of equal quality. An SUV with a weak stability system may not provide sufficient protection from a rollover. If you have been in a rollover accident, you may have a claim against the manufacturer of the SUV for providing a weak stability system, defective air bags, or poor vehicle design. You may also have a claim against a negligent driver, a driver who is under the influence, or for dangerous roadways. If you have been the victim of a rollover accident, speak with a Boston car accident lawyer who has the experience necessary to get you the recovery you deserve.

The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.

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