• How to Improve SUV Safety

    Ever since the first Ford Explorer started the SUV craze in model year 1991, SUV safety has been a primary concern for auto manufacturers and governments around the world. SUVs are taller than the typical car, but generally don’t ride on a platform that is much wider. This creates a higher center of gravity as compared to cars, making SUVs more prone to rollover accidents. Not only is the Ford Explorer the SUV that started the SUV craze, it is also the SUV that started the SUV safety craze.

    In May 2000, the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began investigating Ford for an abnormally high amount of rollover accidents involving the Explorer and its corporate twins, the Mercury Mountaineer and Mazda Navajo. These vehicles were driving on Firestone tires that had problems with tread separation. When the tire gave out, the SUV would jerk and drivers would over-correct, causing it to roll over. Although blame was directed at both Ford and Firestone, the accidents brought SUV safety to the world’s attention.

    It can be argued that, when driven improperly, SUVs can pose a greater accident risk than cars. However, taking a few simple precautions can greatly decrease this risk inanySUV. The following are some tips to improve SUV safety:  

    • Pay attention – This may seem obvious, and this is a precaution that everydriver of everyvehicle should take. However, with the increased risk of rollover accidents, SUV drivers should be extra attentive. Paying closer attention allows the SUV driver to better anticipate the actions of other drivers, and make smarter, safer and more timely decisions in accident avoidance.
    • Drive slower – In an SUV, over-corrections at a higher rate of speed greatly increase the likelihood of tipping the vehicle during any maneuver, evasive or not. Speed and a high center of gravity are not normally an ideal combination.
    • Avoid certain aftermarket equipment – Many SUV owners, especially those from younger generations, like to accentuate the size and/or strength of their SUV by installing aftermarket items such as lift kits and taller tires. While this may add style to the vehicle, it also makes the SUV taller. Increasing the SUV’s height without widening it greatly increases the center of gravity, making rollover accidents more likely.
    • Install an anti-roll bar – Also called an anti-sway or stabilizer bar, many newer SUVs now offer anti-roll bars as standard equipment. If your SUV doesn’t already have one, owners concerned with SUV stability should consider having one installed. An anti-roll bar is a metal bar that connects the right and left sides of an SUV’s suspension. Depending on the SUV, it can be installed on either the front or the back, and is designed to provide added stability when the SUV encounters sway.

    The added space, utility and power associated with an SUV typically comes at the cost of stability and ideal weight distribution. For many people, the benefits of an SUV greatly outweigh the negatives. Most newer SUVs now offer a comprehensive package of safety features, designed to alleviate some of the concerns caused by earlier SUVs. However, following the precautions above can make any SUV, new or old, a much safer vehicle.