Risks of SUV Rollovers

Automobile accidents are one of the leading causes of death, and rollover accidents are often the type of crash that is fatal. Rollover accidents have shown to be three times more likely to occur in a sports utility vehicle (SUV) than in the average sized passenger car. Studies showed that in 2002, 61 percent of the 11,000 people who were killed in rollover accidents were riding in SUVs. Consumers who own and drive SUVs need to be aware of the 14 percent yearly increase in rollover accidents and inform their families accordingly. Even more shocking than this, however, is the amount of information that is concealed by the auto manufacturers and government.

Sobering Statistics

Though the number of SUV rollover fatalities continues to escalate, but SUVs are not being manufactured to better resist rollover crashes. Not a single SUV earned the federal agency’s highest safety rating, according to an NHTSA report in 2003. However, SUV consumption has increased: The popularity of SUVs increased in the 1990s and due to the high demand by consumers, the car manufacturers continue to make SUVs. When the vehicle went to being a family car from just being an off-road vehicle, the manufacturers got rid of the roll bar that would protect people in the car in the case of a rollover situation. Many SUV rollover accidents occur because of the unusual propensity the large car has to roll over when steered hard in foreseeable accident avoidance maneuvers. Also, the size and height of an SUV may increase the danger of rollovers. SUV defects, like weak roofs and safety restraint system failures, are some of the heightened risks involved in an SUV rollover situation. Roof Crush Injury

Roof crush injury is most often the result of rollover automobile accidents. Roof crush injuries kill 10,000 people every year. Vehicle design is supposed to depend on a structural support system that creates a “survival space” that protects car occupants in a crash from injury due to roof crush. When a vehicle does not have the proper roof pillar strength, it will cause the roof to cave into the passenger compartment during an accident. A weak roof makes a vehicle defective, and roof crushes can cause serious and fatal injuries, including disabling brain and spinal injuries.

Safe Roof Designs

Safe roof structure designs have been documented from as early as the 1930s. Vehicles with the safety features mentioned above would reduce the number of roof crush accidents. Despite the availability of safer designs and structures, manufacturers claim it is the force of the impact that leads to injuries and death, notwithstanding the fact that the relationship between rollover crashes and injuries from roof crush was observed and noted as early as 1932. Safe roofs are equipped with strong roof pillars and full-length closed sections, windshield headers and side sections, internal baffle plates, strong tubular cross-members, and reinforcing gussets at the connections. Some use rigid foam within the tubular cross-members to help strengthen the structure. These different safety precautions can significantly minimize the fatal results of roof crush.

Roof Crush and Rollover

Roof crush injury risks are higher in vehicles with a greater propensity to roll over. Sports utility vehicles are three times more likely to be in a rollover accident than other, smaller passenger cars because they are taller. In 1973, the government passed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 216, creating a standard roof strength test to measure the integrity of roof structure in motor vehicles. This test was to apply to motor vehicles weighing six thousand pounds or less. Many SUVs weigh more than this, and are therefore exempt from compulsory safety standards that may be crucial to preventing roof crush injury. In light of SUV roof crush injury risks, consumer advocacy groups have urged the federal government to modify standards so that they include any vehicle weighing ten thousand pounds or less.


Despite the strong appearance of roof pillars, they are often made up of sheet metal that is hollow at the cross sections. When an accident occurs involving roof structures with a filled inner space, the outcome has been shown to be safer due to a lesser amount of roof crush. One way to reduce serious injuries and save lives in rollover accidents is to have pillars filled with a high-density foam which will support the roof better and lessen the chances of a roof crush. Overall, federal safety standards fail to provide roof strength requirements that adequately protect people from suffering roof crush injury in a rollover automobile accident. Despite federal standards, many vehicle roofs will easily crush a foot or more during a rollover accident. More stringent testing standards and minimum industry safety standards must be employed if the government hopes to adequately protect people from sustaining serious roof crush injury in automobile accidents.