Calculations May Be Poor Substitutes Rollover Testing - Use Drivers Not Accountants Many Say

June 27, 2002 The AP reported today that many are suggesting that "Real on the road tests should be used by the NHTSA in their rollover testing.

they went on to say that the 2002 Chevrolet Avalanche, two-door Ford Explorer and Land Rover Discovery Series II 4x4 received the lowest rollover ratings among the latest group of sport-utility vehicles to be rated by the federal government.

Each of the vehicles received two out of a possible five stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which posted the results on its Web site Monday.

The Explorer did well in side-impact crash tests, earning five stars for protection to the driver and passenger.

The Toyota Sequoia and Saturn VUE each received three-star rollover ratings.

"It is a mathematical calculation," General Motors Corp. spokesman Jay Cooney said in response to the ratings. "The Avalanche is a very good vehicle with an excellent real-world safety record."

Messages left at Ford Motor Co. were not immediately returned.

Rollover ratings are based on a vehicle's width and center of gravity. The more top-heavy a vehicle is, the more likely it is to roll over in a single-vehicle crash, NHTSA says.

Vehicles with five-star ratings are said to have a less than 10 percent chance of rolling over, while those with one star have a rollover risk of greater than 40 percent in a single-vehicle crash.

Because sport-utility vehicles tend to be top-heavy, they generally receive lower ratings than passenger cars, which have lower centers of gravity, NHTSA said.

Some safety groups have pushed for actual road tests in addition to the static-stability method now used to determine how prone a vehicle is to roll over.

The 2002 Cadillac Deville four-door, Ford Thunderbird convertible, Hyundai Sonata four-door and Mitsubishi Eclipse two-door all received five-star rollover ratings.

Among 2003 models rated for rollover resistance, the Pontiac Vibe four-door 4x4 and 4x2 and the Toyota Matrix four-door 4x4 and 4x2 received four stars. The Vibe and Matrix are built on the same basic body structures.

The 2003 Toyota Corolla and Camry also received four-star ratings.

The 2002 Mazda MPV van earned five-star ratings in front- and side-impact crash tests and a three-star rollover rating.

In frontal impact crash tests, the 2002 Ford Thunderbird convertible earned four stars for protection to the driver and five stars for the passenger.

During testing, NHTSA noted the driver's seat belt webbing partially tore near the lower belt retractor.

Ford was told of the problem, and the automaker corrected the problem in vehicles built after April 23. Ford also agreed to recall the car built before that date.

The VUE was awarded five stars for protection of the driver and four for the front passenger in frontal impacts. It received five stars each for side impact protection to the driver and passenger.

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