Safety ratings on cars, SUVs and trucks are often used as major selling points by manufacturers. That only makes sense. We all want to be as safe as we can be on the road.
Unfortunately, as careful as we as individuals may be, we can’t control how others behave and where there is negligence or recklessness, there is heightened risk of an accident that can be life altering or life ending. Often, it makes little difference what type of vehicle you are in.
The statistics, though, do suggest that certain vehicles tend to be more susceptible to certain kinds of accidents than others. In the case of Sport Utility Vehicles, vans and trucks, the biggest issue is that they can be more subject to rolling over in a wreck.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety, the United States sees nearly 250,000 rollover accidents every year. More than 200,000 people suffer some sort of non-fatal injury. More than 10,000 people die. And the vehicles most commonly involved include SUVs, vans and pickups. In 2003 alone, nearly 36 percent of fatal SUV crashes involved rollovers. Compare that to about 16 percent of fatalities from car rollovers that year.
The main reason that these vehicles are more prone to rolling is that they tend to have higher centers of gravity. Four-wheel-drive SUVs and trucks represent the greatest concern because they’re designed for high ground clearance. That can make them more unstable in a turn or under conditions of sudden overcorrection.
One other bit of government data worth noting is that most fatal 4WD single-vehicle crashes happen on weekends and involve male drivers under the age of 25. Usually, alcohol is a contributing factor. The numbers also show that 75 percent of the time, victims got ejected from their vehicles — indicating they weren’t wearing seatbelts.
Source: Auto.HowStuffWorks.com, “Rollover Accidents Explained,” undated; NHTSA.gov, “Vehicle Dynamic Rollover Propensity,” Garrick J. Forkenbrock and W. Riley Garrott, undated