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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 Protection

"SUV Design Changes May Increase Safety "

February 06, 2006

According to a study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the number of side-impact SUV accident deaths decreased by nearly half when automakers were forced to lower SUVs from the ground by as little as half an inch and/or equip them with hollow impact-absorbing bars below the bumpers.

These findings, the first of their kind, were produced by evaluating auto industry and federal government data.

Auto manufacturers initially resisted the design changes thought to be responsible for this lowered risk of SUV accident fatalities. Reluctantly they adopted these SUV standards after facing pressure from consumer groups and government officials.

In addition to lowering the risk of fatality in a side-impact SUV accident , these design changes also function to decrease the risk of fatality to belted drivers in frontal collisions . These same design changes produced similar results in light trucks. According to experts, a safety standard has not been so effective in saving lives since the inclusion of airbags in new vehicles.

"To cut somebody's risk of death in half, that's huge. That's almost as good as seatbelts. You're lucky if a new regulation gets you a five or ten percent reduction in the rate of death," states Ricardo Martinez, the leading auto safety specialist during the Clinton Administration.

When federal statistics are applied, experts believe that this new safety regulation may save 600 to 800 lives every year when all SUV makers fully comply.

SUV rollover and other types of SUV accidents came to the forefront of auto safety consciousness in the early 1980s. The issue of SUV rollover first made national news when the media published a report about the Jeep CJ, which had a notably high risk of SUV rollover. Also in the early 1980s, reports on the dangers of Ford Broncos made headlines with alarming frequency.

After decades of controversy and thousands of deaths due to SUV rollover and other related accidents, automakers are starting to change their ways. In a landmark 2003 agreement, 15 domestic- and foreign-based automakers agreed that by late 2009, all SUVS and light trucks would be built lower to the ground or built with an energy-absorbing beam. Automakers also agreed to install side air bags to offer better protection to occupants' heads and necks.

"They never needed to be that high off the ground. That was all the macho look that people wanted, or that the automakers thought people wanted," says the president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Adrian Lund. Sadly, many people have died in the name of this aesthetic preference.

Unfortunately, tens of millions of SUVs on the roads today do not meet these safety standards.

This issue could raise the matter of whether automakers have a responsibility to make older SUVs and trucks less threatening on the road. According to experts, automakers are not likely to take any steps to address the over ten million SUVs on the road right now that do not meet safety standards.

To this enormous problem, General Motor's top safety official says, "they will phase out of use over time."


Last month the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration reported that SUVs had the highest death rates for their own occupants than any broad class of vehicles. This is primarily due to high SUV rollover rates.

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