R.I.P In Your S.U.V.
The Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) is the American icon of the 1990s. They’re stylish yet rugged, 4-wheel go anywhere yet practical, family friendly yet primed for a night out on the town. Riding high in an SUV you feel safe and in control. Right?
Wrong. While Detroit has done a masterful job marketing the SUV to look smart and feel safe, it has become painfully clear that something is amiss. Because of a higher center of gravity over a relatively narrow wheelbase, SUVs are much more likely to roll over than other vehicles. The result is nearly twice the rollover deaths and serious injuries each year for this class of vehicle in proportion to the number of SUVs on the road.
Safety advocates, plaintiff attorneys and several members of Congress have tried to force the industry to come clean on SUV design problems ever since production of the popular Jeep Cherokee and the Ford Bronco II in the 80s. But nothing happened until 2001 when the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHTSA) finally began including rollover potential ratings along with its front and side crash test data.
Despite the facts, it doesn’t appear that the buying habits of Americans will change any time soon. Previously the purview of upscale suburban families, SUVs are now the most popular vehicle among teenagers. Unfortunately inexperience and risk taking by young drivers coupled with the tipsy tendencies of the SUV are proving an even deadlier combination.
If you’re thinking SUV, check out the facts. PBS Frontline’s award-winning news documentary Rollover – The Hidden Story of the SUV is expertly chronicled. Hundreds of other articles and publications are also available on the Web. As Keith Bradsher, investigative reporter with the New York Times said: “It’s a myth that SUVs are safer than cars. People in SUVs die just as often as people in cars; they just die differently.”