February 27, 2003
U.S. safety administrator targets SUV rollover and crash compatibility problems
Washington, D.C. – In a speech yesterday before the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transporation of the U.S. Senate, Jeffrey Runge, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, singled out SUV’s and trucks for their higher propensity to roll over and their poor crash compatibility with passenger cars.
“Pickups and SUVs are involved in a higher percentage of rollovers than passenger cars,” stated Runge. “The rate of fatal rollovers for pickups is twice that for passenger cars and the rate for SUVs is almost three times the passenger car rate. Overall, rollover affects about three percent of passenger vehicles involved in crashes but accounts for 32 percent of passenger vehicle occupant fatalities. Single vehicle rollover crashes accounted for 8,400 fatalities in 2001. Rollover crashes involving more than one vehicle accounted for another 1,700 fatalities, bringing the total fatality count to more than 10,000.”
Runge also pointed out that light trucks, including SUVs, are involved in about half of all fatal two-car collisions, but the victims are usually in the passenger cars. “Compatibility is the other issue. While light trucks represent 36 percent of all registered vehicles, they are already involved in about half of all fatal two-vehicle crashes with passenger cars. In these crashes, over 80 percent of the resulting fatalities are to occupants of the passenger cars. This problem will continue to grow as the percentage of light trucks in the fleet increases. SUVs account for about 35 percent of light truck sales.”
An industry association of car companies, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, concedes that SUVs are more prone to rollovers and are not as compatible in truck/car collisions, but contends that SUVs are safer in frontal, side and rear impacts, which make up about 97% of all collisions in the U.S. The Alliance also points out that since 1995, the fatality rate of SUV’s has dropped 13 percent.