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Will SUVs be Safer in 2012?
You may have purchased your sport utility vehicle (SUV) thinking it was one of the safer models of vehicle on the road. In truth, an SUV’s high center of gravity and narrow tire track make it more likely to rollover when turning at high speeds and when driving on icy roads.
Several years ago, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) made SUV safety a priority after Ford recalled several Ford Explorers because of rollover accidents. In those cases, the vehicles’ Bridgestone-Firestone tires attributed to the accidents. Since then, experts have long agreed that the way to make SUVs safer is to lower their center of gravity and widen the wheelbase. Despite the safety benefits of these modifications, automakers have been slow to modify due to the expense involved.
Change may be on the horizon, however. Large SUVs are no longer selling as they used to, likely due to the rise in fuel costs. The emergence of “crossover” vehicles has replaced the once popular Hummer-style of SUV. The newer models are lower to the ground and combine SUV and traditional vehicle features.
Many of these newer SUV models come equipped with attractive safety features, including:
- Rollover air bags – these protect the drivers and passengers during a crash, and some can protect passengers from ejection
- Electronic stability control (ESC) – this feature uses computer-controlled brakes to help maintain control and prevent skidding
- Seat belts – not a new feature, but still the best way to prevent injuries during a crash or rollover by as much as 75 percent
The NHTSA is pushing for mandatory ESC braking as a standard feature on all new passenger vehicles, not just SUVs. Since 2002, some automakers have voluntarily installed ESC on their new models. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is hoping that by 2012, ESC will be required in all cars, SUVs, pickups and minivans.
Have you suffered injuries in a rollover crash?
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