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Toyota 4-Runner and Other SUV Rollover Cases

Toyota issues recall announcement affecting 880,000 vehicles

May 2005-Toyota Motor Corp. said it is recalling about 880,000 sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and pickup trucks worldwide because of a defect that could affect steering. In the United States, 774,856 Toyota SUVs and pickup trucks have been recalled, including the 2001-2004 model years of the Tacoma, the 2001-2002 versions of the 4Runner and the 2002-2004 model years of the Tundra and Sequoia. Toyota's recall announcement also affects 22,000 vehicles in Japan, 22,000 vehicles in Europe, 14,000 vehicles in Australia and 10,800 vehicles throughout the rest of the world. Read More

SUV ROLLOVER QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

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Why do consumers need to know about SUV rollovers?

Rollovers do not occur as often as other types of crashes, but when they do occur, they often result in a serious injury or death. SUV rollover accidents accounted for more than 10,000 fatalities in the United States in 1999, which is more than side and rear crashes combined. The result was thousands of serious injuries. Some rollover accidents may be preventable if consumers realize the dangers involved in SUV vehicles and the serious and tragic injuries that can result.

"Sport-utility vehicles are more socially acceptable now than they will be in the future. As more people are killed people will wake up and realize what's going on."

-Clarence Ditlow of the Center for Auto Safety
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How do most SUV rollovers occur?
Studies of real-world single-vehicle crashes show that more than 90% of rollovers occur after a driver runs off of the road. This is not referring to vehicles trying to negotiate difficult trails away from public roads, rather it refers to vehicles rolling over off of the pavement after the driver has lost control of the vehicle. The pavement, a ditch, soft soil, curb or other tripping mechanism usually initiates the rollover accident once the vehicle slides off.

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What does the NHTSA'S rollover resistance rating mean?

The Rollover Resistance Ratings are based on Static Stability Factor, which is essentially a measure of how top heavy a vehicle is. The Rollover Resistance Ratings of vehicles were compared to 220,000 actual single vehicle crashes, and the ratings were found to relate very closely to the real-world rollover experience of vehicles. Based on these studies, NHTSA found that taller, narrower vehicles, such as sport utility vehicles, are more likely than lower, wider vehicles, such as passenger cars, to trip and roll over once they leave the roadway. Accordingly, NHTSA awards more stars to wider and/or lower vehicles. The Rollover Resistance Rating, however, does not address the causes of the driver losing control and the vehicle leaving the roadway in the first place.

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Do vehicles with higher rollover resistance ratings mean it is safe from SUV rollovers?


Even a five-star vehicle has up to a 10% risk of rolling over in a single vehicle crash.

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Does electronic stability control affect SUV rollovers?

Most rollovers occur when a vehicle runs off the road and strikes a curb, soft shoulder, guard rail or other object that "trips" it. The Rollover Resistance Ratings estimate the risk of rollover in event of a single vehicle crash, mostly when the vehicle runs off the road. Electronic Stability Control is designed to assist drivers in maintaining control of their vehicles during extreme steering maneuvers. It senses when a vehicle is starting to spin out (oversteer) or plow out (understeer), and it turns the vehicle to the appropriate heading by automatically applying the brake at one or more wheels. Some systems also automatically slow the vehicle with further brake and throttle intervention. What makes Electronic Stability Control promising is the possibility that with its aid many drivers will avoid running off the road and having a single vehicle crash in the first place. However, ESC cannot keep a vehicle on the road if its speed is simply too great for the available traction and the maneuver the driver is attempting, or if road departure is a result of driver inattention. In these cases, a single vehicle crash will happen, and the rollover resistance rating will apply as it does to all vehicles in the event of a single vehicle crash.

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Dangers for SUV Rollover Accidents
Understanding the risks involved in driving a sport utility vehicle may help prevent unnecessary SUV rollover accidents.

  • A high center of gravity/narrow track width is one of the most important factors in determining a potential SUV rollover. Since SUVs have a higher center of gravity than other vehicles on the road it makes them top heavy. A corrective action puts an SUV in a rollover position.
  • SUVs are supposed to be able to carry a heavy load of people, equipment, etc, over any type of terrain. This fact has made SUVs a family car, rather than for simply off-roading. More weight increases the chances of an SUV rollover accident occurring, despite the belief that added weight will add stability.
  • An SUV without roll protection is what makes an SUV rollover accident so dangerous. Although SUVs were made for the purpose of off-roading manufacturers realized the use of SUVs as a family car and did not include roll bars. While the body of an SUV remained the same as it would if used for off-roading, the removal of the roll bars combined with the high clearance and high center of gravity make rollover accidents that much more fatal.
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