The U.S. government on Oct. 7, 2003, began a new test to assess light vehicles for rollover risk, focusing particularly on SUVs that are more prone than cars to overturn.
NHTSA was mandated under the TREAD Act of 2000 to develop a dynamic test for rollover risk that would better simulate real-world rollover crashes and serve as the basis for "developing meaningful consumer information."
Rollovers have a higher fatality rate than other kinds of crashes. Of the nearly 9.1 million passenger car, SUV, pickup and van crashes in 2010, just 2.1 percent involved a rollover, NHTSA data show. However, rollovers accounted for nearly 35 percent of all deaths from passenger vehicle crashes. In 2010 alone, more than 7,600 people died in rollover crashes. The majority of them -- 69 percent -- were not wearing safety belts.
The agency said results from the new tests would be combined with its controversial system for rating rollover risk that was based on vehicle measurements.
The agency was a year late in unveiling protocols for testing at its East Liberty, Ohio, research site and developing the formula for analyzing the data and presenting it to consumers.
Congress passed the TREAD Act in response to defective Firestone tires that were prone to blowout, resulting in SUV rollovers and nearly 300 deaths.
Government figures for all vehicles showed that 10,000 people were killed in rollover crashes in 2002, up 5 percent from the previous year. SUV rollover deaths rose 14 percent to more than 2,400 in 2002.
Rollovers accounted for more than a third of overall traffic fatalities and 22 percent of deaths in passenger cars, 45 percent in pickups and 61 percent in SUVs in 2002. Most victims were not wearing seat belts.