WASHINGTON - Many new sport-utility vehicles, equipped with anti-rollover technology, are less of a risk for rollover crashes than their predecessors, the government says.
Rollover ratings issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for 2007 vehicles show SUVs making progress over previous model years. The ratings give consumers information on the likelihood of rollovers, which kill more than 10,000 motorists in the United States each year - more than a third of motorists killed in the country annually, despite accounting for only 3 percent of all crashes.
Seventy-eight 2007 SUVs received a four-star rating in the rollover tests, according to an analysis by the Associated Press. More than half of the 2007 SUVs had four-star ratings; only 48 of 103 2006 SUVs that were rated earned four stars. Only one SUV received four stars in 2001.
To guard against rollovers, automakers have increasingly installed electronic stability control into their vehicle lineup. The anti-rollover technology, which was introduced by Mercedes-Benz in 1995, automatically applies brakes to individual wheels when a vehicle begins skidding off course, helping to steady it.
Eighty-six percent of 2007 SUVs have stability control as standard equipment, up from 43 percent in 2005, the government reported.
In testing, no SUV has earned a top five-star rating. Under the ratings system, a vehicle with five stars has a rollover risk of less than 10 percent. A four-star vehicle has a 10 percent to 20 percent risk, and a three-star vehicle has a 20 percent to 30 percent risk.
Newly tested 2007 SUVs receiving the four-star rating included: Infiniti FX35; Mazda CX-7; Ford Edge and Explorer Sport Trac; Hyundai Santa Fe and Veracruz; Jeep Compass; Chevrolet Equinox; Honda CR-V; Volkswagen Touareg; Acura MDX and RDX; Suzuki XL7; and Saturn Outlook.
The 4X4 version of the Kia Sportage and the 4X2 version of the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited also earned four stars. Test results were carried over for vehicles that were unchanged from the previous model year. A full listing can be found at www.safercar.gov/.
In April, the government said electronic stability control would be required in all new vehicles by the 2012 model year, estimating the equipment could save 5,300 to 9,600 lives a year once it was fully deployed into the nation's fleet.