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SUV Rollover Test

The SUV rollover test is conducted by the federal government in order to inform consumers about the relative risk of rollover for SUVs on the market. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was established in 1970 in order to reduce death, injury and economic loss associated with motor accidents, set and enforce vehicle safety standards, investigate defective automobile products, enforce gasoline standards, and conduct traffic related research.

One out of every four vehicles sold in the US is a sports utility vehicle or SUV. The SUV came into being when the auto industry found a loophole in the 1970s Energy Policy and Conservation Act, allowing looser regulations on gas standards for SUVs (considered light trucks by the Act's definition). SUVs also yield a huge profit margin for auto manufacturers, up to $15,000 in profits per SUV sold. The utility and image of an SUV has created a huge consumer demand for SUVs despite evidence that SUVs have a much greater risk of rollover than any other type of vehicle.

In 2002, approximately 70,000 SUVs were involved in rollover accidents killing 2,000 people and injuring many more. Rollover accidents have a higher incidence of fatality than other vehicle accidents. In 1999, 63 percent of all SUV fatalities involved vehicle rollover. Because of SUV design, these vehicles are much more likely to be involved in a rollover accident than any other vehicle. The Ford Explorer, for example, is sixteen times more likely to kill another driver in a rollover accident than a typical family car.

The rollover risks associated with SUVs have been known for decades. In 1986 Congressman Tim Wirth proposed an SUV rollover test method to determine the static stability factor (SSF) for SUVs. The static stability factor is determined by dividing the width of the vehicle track by two times the height of the vehicle's center of gravity. This SUV rollover test method would give an indication of the risks of rollover for motor vehicles but was rejected at the time of the proposal.

In November 2000 the TREAD Act was passed to require SUV rollover test scores to be available to consumers. Wirth's SSF test is now an official component of the SUV rollover test. The NHTSA's SUV rollover test combines the SSF with maneuvering test results to determine the risk of rollover for SUVs. These are represented in a star system. Five stars in an SUV rollover test means a ten percent or less chance that an SUV would rollover in an accident down to one star for a 40 percent chance. SUV rollover tests have consistently shown that SUVs have a far greater chance of rollover than any other vehicle on the road at an average of 12 percent compared with three percent for passenger cars.

SUV rollover test results have shown that rollover accidents are preventable. SUV design changes could make them much less likely to rollover in an accident, but are forgone in the manufacturing process due to cost. If you have been injured in an SUV rollover accident, you may be eligible to seek compensation for your damages in a civil lawsuit. For more information you may wish to contact a qualified attorney to discover your rights and options in a case.

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