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SUV Rollovers Pose Serious Auto Accident Risks

Nov 17, 2007
The sport utility vehicle (SUV) has the highest rate of death in rollover accidents. According to government tests, SUV rollovers are almost three times more likely to occur than in the average passenger car, and the most stable SUV is still more unstable than the most unstable car. In 2002, nearly 11,000 people died in rollover accidents, 61 percent of which occurred in SUVs.

With the number of people killed in SUV rollovers increasing by 14 percent per year, consumers should be aware of the risks SUVs pose to their families. Even more alarming than the rising rollover statistics is the withholding of rollover information by the government and auto manufacturers.

Sobering Statistics

Though the number of SUV rollover fatalities continues to escalate, but SUVs are not being manufactured to better resist rollover crashes. Not a single SUV earned the federal agency's highest safety rating, according to an NHTSA report in 2003. However, SUV consumption has increased: SUV popularity created a large increase in sales in the 1990s, and because of high consumer demand for these cars, car makers continue to manufacture SUVs. Because the vehicle has changed from simply being an off-road vehicle to a replacement for the family station wagon, manufacturers removed the roll bar that protects drivers and passengers in a rollover situation from SUVs.

Many SUV rollover accidents occur because of the unusual propensity the large car has to roll over when steered hard in foreseeable accident avoidance maneuvers. Also, the size and height of an SUV may increase the danger of rollovers. SUV defects, like weak roofs and safety restraint system failures, are some of the heightened risks involved in an SUV rollover situation. Roof Crush Injury

Roof crush injury is most often the result of rollover automobile accidents. Roof crush injuries kill 10,000 people every year. Vehicle design is supposed to depend on a structural support system that creates a "survival space" that protects car occupants in a crash from injury due to roof crush. When a vehicle does not have the proper roof pillar strength, it will cause the roof to cave into the passenger compartment during an accident. A weak roof makes a vehicle defective, and roof crushes can cause serious and fatal injuries, including disabling brain and spinal injuries.

Safe Roof Designs

Safe roof structure designs have been documented from as early as the 1930s. Vehicles with the safety features mentioned above would reduce the number of roof crush accidents. Despite the availability of safer designs and structures, manufacturers claim it is the force of the impact that leads to injuries and death, notwithstanding the fact that the relationship between rollover crashes and injuries from roof crush was observed and noted as early as 1932.

Safe roofs are equipped with strong roof pillars and full-length closed sections, windshield headers and side sections, internal baffle plates, strong tubular cross-members, and reinforcing gussets at the connections. Some use rigid foam within the tubular cross-members to help strengthen the structure. These different safety precautions can significantly minimize the fatal results of roof crush.

Roof Crush and Rollover

Roof crush injury risks are higher in vehicles with a greater propensity to roll over. Because they are taller and narrower, SUVs, or sports utility vehicles, are three times more likely to roll over in an accident than are other passenger cars. In 1973, the government passed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 216, creating a standard roof strength test to measure the integrity of roof structure in motor vehicles. This test was to apply to motor vehicles weighing six thousand pounds or less. Many SUVs weigh more than this, and are therefore exempt from compulsory safety standards that may be crucial to preventing roof crush injury. In light of SUV roof crush injury risks, consumer advocacy groups have urged the federal government to modify standards so that they include any vehicle weighing ten thousand pounds or less.

Roof pillars appear strong to the average consumer, but most of them consist of just sheet metal that is hollow on the inside at the cross sections. When an accident occurs involving roof structures with a filled inner space, the outcome has been shown to be safer due to a lesser amount of roof crush.

Pillars filled with high-density foam can reduce the severity of a roof crush significantly, saving lives and reducing serious injuries. Overall, federal safety standards fail to provide roof strength requirements that adequately protect people from suffering roof crush injury in a rollover automobile accident. Despite federal standards, many vehicle roofs will easily crush a foot or more during a rollover accident. More stringent testing standards and minimum industry safety standards must be employed if the government hopes to adequately protect people from sustaining serious roof crush injury in automobile accidents.

If You've Been Injured in an SUV Accident

Though rollover accidents are regarded as highly survivable events, the integrity of a vehicle's roof structure during impact is crucial. Windshield reinforcement is a critical component of vehicle design: when a windshield is destroyed in the course of an accident, the strength of the roof is instantly reduced by 33 percent. As a result, roof crush injuries are often extremely serious. Common roof crush injuries include neck fractures and other spinal injuries. Sometimes a brain injury may result from the roof crushing in on the vehicle occupant. These head and neck injuries can also cause paraplegia, quadriplegia, or other life-altering conditions.

If you have suffered injury due to a roof crush car crash, you may be eligible for monetary compensation due to faulty automobile design. Contact an experienced crashworthiness attorney as soon as possible. Your crashworthiness lawyer will help you assess your claim, file a law suit, and get the compensation you deserve.
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