On January 23, 2000, a famed American football player, Derrick Thomas, lost control of his 1999 Chevy Suburban on a main road that was covered with snow and ice, and the car rolled. His friend, Michael D. Tellis, was declared dead at the scene, while Thomas died two weeks after from a pulmonary embolism.
Thomas’ mother initiated a lawsuit against General Motors, claiming that flaws of the Surburban’s design were at fault. In 2004, a jury declared the Thomas family to be due no money. Neither Thomas nor Tellis had been wearing seatbelts, while a third passenger, John C. Hagebusch, had used a seatbelt and suffered only minor injuries. Witnesses attested that Thomas had been driving excessively fast and weaving between traffic.
While the SUV was surely clearly not at fault in this instance, it caused “SUV” and “safety” to be mentioned in the same sentence. The scandal of the tyres of the Ford Explorer SUV from 2000 to 2002 was firmer cause for concern over the safety of SUVs. People came to believe that SUVs were unsafe, which is something anyone contemplating which are the best SUVs will wish to settle conclusively.
The Safest SUV
The Ford Ranger, arguably the safest SUV around
It can be strongly argued that the Ford Ranger is the safest SUV. It made motoring history when it received a five star rating from both the European New Car Assessment Programme and the Australian New Car Assessment Programme. A Ford Ranger review by Motoring will provide full details.
The Safety of SUVs
Figures released by the US Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) showed that large and mid-size SUVs are safer than regular cars. An SUV’s size and weight entail that any car with which one collides will probably be more at risk. Car makers have greatly changed SUV design, making the centre of gravity lower. Some safety features are as desirable in SUVs as in any car, but three are particularly useful.
Rollovers, and One Way to Prevent Them
According to another US body, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in excess of 10,000 people – over a third of fatalities – die yearly from rollover-related crashes, and most occur in SUVs. Technology, however, has improved this, and the fatality rate of SUVs has fallen by two thirds in the space of a decade.
Electronic stability systems can prevent some of the circumstances that cause rollovers by applying anti-lock brakes when control of the SUV is lost. The IIHS reported that these can reduce the risk of rollover by as much as 75 percent. Manufacturers proliferated this safety feature even before the US government made it compulsory in all vehicles for models built from 2012 onwards.
Rollover Prevention Systems
Dedicated rollover prevention systems are also available. These are widely considered to be the Holy Grail of SUV safety. They detect an impending rollover and trigger the electronic stability system to avoid the prospect.
Side Curtain Airbags
Side curtain airbags deploy downwards from the ceiling to cover side windows. While other vehicles are more likely to strike the doors of an SUV, these airbags protect occupants in the event of a rollover over several rolls. To be worthwhile, the airbags should be designed to deploy during a rollover, and the third row of seats should also be protected, if one is present.
Anyone wishing their SUV to be safe should ensure that the SUV they purchase possesses these features.