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Demystifying an SUV Safety Report: Are Rollovers a Threat?

When it comes to SUV rollovers, most people commonly approach them in one of two ways, either they are worried about the danger of rollover every time they get into an SUV or they brush it off as a myth, believing that SUV rollovers are only as common as any other vehicle rolling over. The truth, however, is somewhere in between these two trains of thought. Riding in an SUV isnt a death sentence as long as the driver is cautious and follows all traffic rules, but at the same time, Sport Utility Vehicles do tend to rollover more readily than other vehicles.

SUV rollovers are a safety issue you must understand; if you aren't aware, you can't protect yourself and your passengers, whether they be co-workers riding with you on a commute to work or your children in the backseat heading to soccer practice. The most common and easy way to learn about your particular SUV and the rate of rollover is to read the safety report. However, these reports can be a bit intimidating, presenting you with lots of figures and scientific data, so learning exactly how to read the report is crucial.

The first rollover reports appeared by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in early 2001. Of course, these reports were clouded in controversy, as not every SUV performed well. Companies such as General Motors went on the record as saying that the reports are misleading to consumers, which may have a shade of truth to it, since most people don't accurately know how to read the entire report.

The most important part of the SUV rollover report is the SSF, which stands for Static Stability Factor. If you majored in physics in college, you probably are nodding your head, but for the rest of us, let me put it into simpler terms: SSF is reports how top-heavy your SUV is. Imagine putting a heavy basket of fruit on top of your head, as you'd try to walk, you'd feel unstable, like you were going to topple over, right? Top heavy means an SUV will be more likely to topple over as well, and so SUV rollovers will be more common.

SSF is a number computed by measuring the center of gravity on the SUV, which is largely due to the track width. Track width is just a fancy way of saying the distance between the tires, and the back tires are always used to keep everyone's report consistent. Go back to imagining yourself with a basket on your head.

Imagine the result if you if you stand with your feet together versus if you stand with your feet a shoulder width's apart. You'll definitely feel more stability with your feet apart, right? The same is true in SUV rollover reports: the farther the tires (feet) are from one another, the more stable the SUV will be and the less likely for SUV rollovers to happen.

In theory, this is a perfect way to determine how likely your SUV is to rollover. That said, there are things that your SUV rollover report isn't telling you. For instance, the vast majority of SUV rollovers occur when the driver accidentally (or purposely) drives off of the road and a wheel of the SUV hits a ditch, bump, curb, or other change.

The speed you are traveling also makes a difference, and a reaction to running off the road can play into the rollover as well. Would you slam on your brakes or pump the pedal? Would you jerk the wheel to gain control or try to keep steady, would you shift gears? Each of these factors in your own personal situation will help to determine if you will be involved in a rollover or not.

Also, one must take into consideration other safety features of an SUV before buying. When compared to all other vehicles, SUVs are, hands down, the safest in a collision due to their size and build. Use your common sense if you are worried about SUV rollovers. Death occurs largely do to the roof crushing, so of course a less stable roof, found if the roof is removable or has a sunroof, will be more dangerous if you actually get into a rollover situation.

That doesn't mean that a rollover report is senseless. The rollover report's SSF should weigh in your mind at least a bit, and can help you to decide between two vehicles if you are truly on the fence. Drive safely and SUV rollovers should never be an issue in the first place. All the safety reports in the world can't make up for a bad driver.

About The Author Nick Johnson is lead counsel and founding partner of Johnson Law Group. Johnson represents plaintiffs injured in auto accidents, truck accidents and vehicle rollovers. Call 1-888-311-5522 immediately and visit or
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