Surviving S.U.V. Rollovers

3/12/2008 Fresno For years, the nation's automakers have said that just isn't true, but now a new study says automakers need to think again.

What the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found was if the roof on every S.U.V. was as strong as the best one the industry tested, injury risk in rollover crashes would be reduced by 39% to 57% percent. That's a lot of lives.

For years, the auto industry has argued to that a stronger roof doesn't make a safer S.U.V. But the latest study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said that's just not true.

The institute tested roofs on 11 S.U.V.'s. They also poured over data from 23,000 real S.U.V. accidents over a seven-year period.

The results seemed to state the obvious; a stronger roof makes all the difference in a rollover crash. "You could be injured from the roof coming in, you could be injured because if you're thrown against the roof that can hurt you," said Adrian Lund from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The study claims the Nissan Xterra is the safest, followed by the Ford Explorer and Jeep Liberty. At the bottom of the list were older models of the Chevy Blazer and GMC Jimmy, the Jeep Grand Cherokee's roof was the least safe.

The government admitted it's current roof standard of one-and-a-half times the vehicle weight is old and said a proposal to make them bear two-and-a-half times the vehicle weight could save as many 44-lives a year. But the Insurance Institute says the minimum should be even more; three times the vehicle weight.

The auto industry won't like that. Its studies show no link between roof strength and rollover deaths.

Other safety features like electronic stability control helps keep vehicles from rolling over in the first place, and side airbags protect people if rollovers happen.

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