The manufacturers of Sport Utility Vehicles (SUV) are under increasing criticism for not improving the safety of these popular vehicles. SUV rollover accidents accounted for just 3 percent of all U.S. auto accidents in 2001, but caused nearly a third of all vehicle-occupant fatalities, and an SUV occupant was more than three times as likely to die as a result of a rollover as an occupant of a passenger car.
Jeffery Runge, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the top U.S. auto-safety regulator said sport/utility vehicles and pickup trucks aren’t safe enough due to rollover risks and consumers should think twice about buying them. Runge added that fatalities in single vehicle rollovers increased 22.3 percent from 2000 to 2001 and now account for 8,400 fatalities. Runge, who served as an emergency room physician for 20-years before becoming head of the NHTSA, said SUV drivers are especially vulnerable to fatal rollovers because the vehicle’s high center of gravity makes them more likely to tip during sudden maneuvers.
If automakers don’t take steps to make SUVs safer, Runge warned that the government could step in to demand changes.
More than 30 of the 2002 SUVs tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration earned just one or two stars, including the top-selling SUV, Ford Explorer, and other popular models such as Chevrolet Tahoe, Toyota 4Runner, and Nissan Xterra.
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