How to avoid rollover in an SUV or crossover

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An SUV is on fire following an accident.

Defensive driving might have helped this driver avoid an accident. (Photo Credit: CC BY/Andre Engels/Wikipedia)

While the problem of SUV rollover has been greatly improved via changes in vehicle design and technology, excessive cargo weight can still increase the likelihood that a rollover will occur. Knowing the limitations of a vehicle before handling heavy cargo on winding roads can save your life and the lives of others.

Taller SUVs have higher center of gravity

The higher the profile of the SUV, the better view it provides the driver of the road. Generally speaking, this will raise the vehicle’s center of gravity, which in turn makes it more prone to rollover when taking turns at accelerated speeds. Overloading such a top-heavy vehicle only accentuates the effect, and it places undue stress on brakes and tires. Even at proper inflation, chances of blowout increase if you’re hauling too much cargo on standard tires.

Crossovers have fewer rollover problems

Crossover SUVs with a slightly lower profile such as the Chevrolet Traverse have become increasingly popular with consumers who like the style and interior space of an SUV but don’t need to climb rocks. Crossovers sit lower to the ground for easier entry and exit, which in turn lowers the center of gravity. Handing and ride comfort are also increased, and crossovers tend to perform much better than standard SUVs in rollover tests.

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Paying attention to stability options

Depending upon the model SUV, stability control technology helps counteract a higher center of gravity. General Motors calls it StabiliTrak, Mercedes-Benz uses the Electronic Stability Program, Ford had AdvanceTrac and there are many other similar devices. In all cases, computers sense when a vehicle is about to go out of control or go into a rollover. When it happens, engine power is automatically cut, while braking is automatically applied to individual wheels, depending upon the direction in which the vehicle is headed. The end result in most cases is that a crash can be averted.

Know the maximum combined weight and tire pressure

Since 2004, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has required that the tire label on a vehicle’s doorjamb must list the maximum combined weight of occupants and cargo for all vehicles with a gross weight of 10,000 pounds or less. This information had previously only been listed in the owner’s manual of a vehicle. This can help consumers avoid overburdening their SUVs.

Load capacity is only one factor, however. Proper tire inflation can also help guard against rollover danger. The tire pressure specifications listed on the doorjamb of the vehicle or owner’s manual – not the tire sidewall, says Edmunds – should be followed. Periodically checking for proper depth of tire tread is also important, as is tire rotation. The tread should be uniform and be more than 1/16 of an inch deep.

Drive defensively

Perhaps the best way to avoid any type of vehicular rollover is to drive smart. Defensive driving techniques will keep you from quick turns and overzealous, last-second use of brakes. Survey the road ahead and don’t panic when conditions change or obstacles appear. In rain, snow and ice, drive slowly. Avoid tailgating. Use all appropriate blinker signals.

Testing for rollover


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