How Safe Are Sport-Utility Vehicles?
It's a question on the minds of SUV drivers all over the country: Do sport-utility vehicles really roll over more easily than other types of vehicles?
The troubling fact is that they do. SUVs roll over in about 30 percent of the crashes analyzed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, compared to 8 percent of crashes involving passenger cars.
"It's a function of gravity," says Bill Visnic, senior technical editor for Ward's Auto World magazine in Southfield, Mich. "Many of these vehicles are higher, but they don't have a wider base."
While many SUVs are bigger and heavier than cars -- meaning you'd be well protected in a crash -- automotive experts warn that SUV drivers shouldn't get overconfident, especially in winter conditions.
"Four-wheel drive will cause more problems than it will solve if you don't use your head," says Jim Solomon, master trainer for the National Safety Council defensive-driving courses. "Drive as if you had two-wheel drive, then when you need four-wheel, it will be there for you," he says. "Remember, four-wheel drive won't help you stop any faster."
Drivers considering an SUV should see how it handles on a test drive, says Visnic. Do some sharp turns. "There's a huge difference from model to model," he says. "Look for one with as low a center of gravity as possible."
Nationally, SUVs have a rollover rate of 98 fatalities per million registered vehicles, compared to 44 fatalities per million for other light vehicle types, according to NHTSA. But consider this: 1,088 of the 1,482 SUV-rollover deaths in 1997 involved occupants who didn't use their safety belts.
Follow these tips to protect yourself from a rollover.
"Buying an SUV involves a tradeoff," says Dr. Ricardo Martinez, administrator for NHTSA. "While these vehicles may do well in certain types of crashes, they are more likely to roll over."
Regardless of what
type of vehicle you’re driving follow these 10 tips for safe winter driving.
Respect the winter weather. "Plan
extra time for a trip in the winter," says AAA spokesman Mitch Fuqua.
"A trip that might take 30 minutes in May might take you 45 minutes
or an hour in the winter."
Wear your safety belts. "You have
to be protected, no matter what season it is," says Carole Guzzetta
of the National Safety Council's Safety Belt Coalition. Make it a rule:
Everyone must be buckled up before the vehicle moves.