Many new sport utility vehicles, equipped with anti-rollover technology, are less of a risk for rollover crashes than their predecessors, the government says.
Rollover ratings issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for 2007 model year vehicles show SUVs making progress over past vehicles. The ratings give consumers information on the likelihood of a rollover, which kill more than 10,000 motorists in the United States every year, more than a third of motorists killed in the country annually, despite accounting for only 3 percent of all crashes.
Seventy-eight of 145 2007 model-year SUVs rated received four stars in the rollover tests, according to an analysis by The Associated Press. In 2006, 48 of 103 SUVs rated got four stars. Only one SUV received four stars in 2001.
To guard against rollovers, automakers have increasingly installed electronic stability control into their vehicle lineup. The anti-rollover technology, which was first introduced by Mercedes-Benz in 1995, automatically applies brakes to individual wheels when the vehicle begins skidding off course, helping to steady the vehicle.
Eighty-six percent of 2007 SUVs have stability control as standard equipment, up from 43 percent in 2005, the government reported.
In NHTSA testing, no SUV has earned a top five-star rating. Under the ratings system, a vehicle with five stars has a rollover risk of less than 10 percent. A four-star vehicle has a 10 percent to 20 percent risk and a three-star vehicle has a 20 percent to 30 percent risk.
Newly tested 2007 SUVs receiving the four-star rating include: Infiniti FX35, Mazda CX-7, Ford Edge and Explorer Sport Trac, Hyundai Santa Fe and Veracruz, Jeep Compass, Chevrolet Equinox, Honda CR-V, Volkswagen Touareg, Acura MDX and RDX, Suzuki XL7, and Saturn Outlook.
The 4X4 version of the Kia Sportage and the 4X2 version of the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited also earned four stars. Test results were carried over for vehicles that were unchanged from the previous model year. A full listing can be found at http://www.safercar.gov/.
Federal statistics show some progress in reducing rollover deaths. In 2006, 10,698 motorists were killed in rollovers, a 1.6 percent decline compared to the previous year. The rate of rollover deaths in 2006 per 100,000 registered vehicles was 4.55, a 3.6 percent decline.
In April, the government said electronic stability control would be required in all new vehicles by the 2012 model year, estimating it could save between 5,300 and 9,600 lives a year once it is fully deployed into the nation's fleet.
For pickup trucks, 74 of the vehicles from the 2007 model year earned four stars out of 89 pickups rated. That compares with 53 pickups from the 2006 model year earning four stars out of 71 pickups rated.
Government studies have found stability control reduces single-vehicle sport utility crashes by 67 percent and one-car crashes by 35 percent compared to the same models sold in previous years without the technology.