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Winter Roads Mean Dangers Everywhere

Winter is upon us, and with it come road safety concerns. Even is sunny climes like Southern California, there is great concern of ice and winter road conditions.

Also read... On the Road in Winter

Don't think just because you spent a lot of money on a cool SUV that you are prepared for Winter Roads... SUVs roll.

icy-roadRollover accidents of all kinds, particularly single-vehicle rollovers for all vehicles, not just SUVs, cause more fatalities than any other kind of motor-vehicle accident -- one-quarter of all deaths yearly. SUVs, beginning with Ford’s Bronco II first produced in 1983, have a long, documented history of topping the list of most dangerous vehicles on the road when it comes to rollovers. One does not have to search far for statistics to substantiate that SUV crashes, single-vehicle rollovers, have accounted for more motorist’s deaths and injuries in the last thirty years than any other single vehicle on the road.

The apparent protection advantage SUVs offer their own occupants in multi-vehicle crashes, such as front- and side-impact collisions is negated by the fact that SUVs are more likely to injure or kill the occupants of other vehicles in a crash. The increasing size of SUVs, and thus their increasing incompatibility with smaller passenger cars, is a growing problem and is likely to result in increasing fatalities. In rollover accidents where the driver loses control because the SUV becomes too unwieldy to maneuver, occupants of the SUVs have a high fatality rate.

What Causes Rollovers

Many SUVs such as the early Ford Explorer and the Chevy Trailblazer were simply passenger cars set on the steel mini-truck frames. In the case of the popular Explorer, Ford used the existing undercarriage of the Ranger pickup. This saved them millions of dollars in developing a new and wider frame. Simply lowering a longer and taller passenger compartment on an existing frame, they were able to use the same factory and tools used to build the Ranger. What they didn’t count on was the fact that the new passenger body was taller, longer, and heavier than the standard pickup body. These quickly became family wagons, packing off luggage and kids and toys on vacations and travel. When fully loaded, an SUV center of gravity rises, so at highway speeds when an abrupt stop or panic stop is required, the rear end tends to fishtail and swerve, giving the driver a sense of loss of control. A less experienced driver, who panics by mashing the brakes, ends up in an uncontrolled spin, resulting in a rollover. Early models of Broncos and Explorers and other SUVs were not equipped with anti-locked brakes. This made emergency stops dangerous and wild. Late model SUVs have safety braking systems as standard equipment, and are less prone to fishtailing in a panic stop. However, there are still millions of older model SUVs on the road.

Startling SUV Facts

  • There were 70,000 SUV rollovers in 2002, in which 2000 people died.
  • In the 10-year period during which Ford-Firestone related rollovers caused some 300 deaths, more than 12,000 people -- 40 times as many -- died in SUV rollover crashes unrelated to tire failure.
  • A Ford Explorer is 16 times as likely as the typical family car to kill occupants of another vehicle in a crash.
  • 1 out of 4 new vehicles sold in the U.S. is an SUV, making it the most popular type of vehicle in America. The Ford Explorer is the most popular SUV in the world.
  • The 2002 four-door Explorer model is lower and its wheelbase has been widened by two inches. Former Ford CEO Jacques Nasser stated that the changes were not made for safety reasons.

Rollover Frequency

  • In 1999, 63 percent of all SUV deaths were in rollovers
  • In 2000, SUVs had the highest rollover involvement rate of any vehicle type in fatal crashes -- 36 percent, as compared with 24 percent for pickups, 19 percent for vans and 15 percent for traffic cars.
  • SUVs had the highest rollover rate for passenger vehicles in injury crashes -- 12 percent, as compared to 7 percent for pickups, 4 percent for vans and 3 percent for passenger cars.

SUV Safety Guidelines

NHTSA has issued a list of safety guidelines it says a driver can do to reduce the risk of rollover:

  • Auto and Vehicle Roadside Survival Kits – Bug Outs, Auto Emergency Tools & AAA Emergency Survival Kits Auto and Vehicle Roadside Survival Kits – Bug Outs, Auto Emergency Tools & AAA Emergency Survival Kits

    Avoid conditions that could lead to loss of vehicle control. These conditions include driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs; driving when excessively drowsy; and speeding.

  • Be careful on rural roads.
  • Avoid extreme panic-like steering. NHTSA advises, "If your vehicle should go off the roadway, gradually reduce the vehicle speed and then ease the vehicle back on to the roadway when it is safe to do so."
  • Maintain tires properly and replace them when necessary.
  • Load vehicles properly. When loaded down with additional weight -- such as passengers, luggage, and equipment -- SUVs become less stable. Compared to most sedans and station wagons, SUVs have a higher center of gravity. Therefore the extra weight, which typically rides above an SUV's center of gravity, makes the vehicle tip more easily.

Although in recent years many manufacturers have improved vehicle technology to compensate for these types of accidents it is always good to be aware of rollover possibilities.

See what you can do to prepare:

Auto Survival & Roadside

See all Winter Safety

Contributed by Brian Debelle, who writes for the Orange County car accident lawyers at JAG Legal.

4 thoughts on “Winter Roads Mean Dangers Everywhere”

  • Fiona

    Culture understands with law what they could not do. Yet they additionally know what
    they could do. So law brings about freedom, framework, and order.

  • Gidget

    I am scared enough of driving and of other drivers... this just makes me more nervous about being on the road!

  • Jana Igo

    December was bad, but this January... Heavens to Murgatroyd! I declare someone is out to kill me on these roads.

  • Felica

    On December 20th I got in a bad accident because of winter roads.. this is a god post.

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