Sport utility vehicle (SUV) rollovers became highly publicized in the 1990s. In 1980, CBS News reported on the JEEP CJ. In this report, CBS showed the propensity for the vehicle to experience rollover when performing certain turns or evasive maneuvers.
Shortly thereafter, the SUV market exploded. Both GM and Ford introduced popular SUV models, the Bronco and the Blazer. Both were highly subjected to rollover incidents. In 2000, the SUV rollover scandal exploded, highlighted by a massive recall of Firestone tires on Ford Explorers.
An SUV rolls over due to a disruption of the center of gravity of the vehicle. SUV’s are higher off the ground than other automotives, making them at a greater risk of rollover incidents. When the SUV runs off the road or the tires experience imbalance, this impacts the vehicles center of gravity and can result in a rollover accident.
Since the tires support the SUV’s center of gravity, any defects may contribute to a rollover accident. Another SUV defect involves the use of inferior or defective material in the manufacturing of the vehicle.
Tires: When a tire is manufactured defectively, the tread can separate. When this occurs at excessive speed, the vehicle can roll over because the driver loses the ability to control the vehicle with the damaged tire.
Defective or inferior materials: When defective or inferior material is used, the vehicle will not operate at full capacity. An SUV is a larger vehicle, requiring a delicate balance between the vehicle, road and driver. If one component is not operating affectively, it will materially impact the vehicle.
SUVs were originally designed for off-road conditions. However, since SUVs are now traditionally considered family or multi-passenger vehicles, some of the off-road features like roll-bars have been removed, which, in turn, made the vehicle more dangerous.
According to the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than half of all single-vehicle accident deaths are attributed to rollover accidents. More than 10,000 people are killed annually due to SUV rollover.
Examples of several SUVs with a history of rollover issues are detailed below.
Firestone ATX and Wilderness tires were associated with a series of fatal rollover accidents involving Ford Explorer SUVs. The Department of Transportation (DOT) opened an investigation which resulted in a significant recall of tires on Ford Explorers. This cost Ford in excess of $3 billion.
Toyota recalled more than 800,000 SUVs for a defective front suspension that affected the steering mechanism.
In 2009, JEEP issued a recall for the Liberty model. In this case, the vehicle suspension could raise and lower unexpectedly. This could cause the driver to react and instigate a rollover accident.
Those involved in an accident involving the rollover of an SUV may wish to file a lawsuit to seek compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering. Working with an attorney may yield damages to help with these costs if the accident was caused by the design of the vehicle, defective products or negligence.