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Government to Rate Vehicles on Their Potential for RolloverAired October 9, 2000 - 2:42 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: The Ford Motor Company disputes a new study by "The Washington Post," which challenges the safety of the automaker's popular Explorer sport utility vehicle. "The Post" analysis found the Explorer suffered from a higher rate of tire- related accidents versus other SUVs, even when fitted with different brands of tires. Ford blames defective Firestone tires for a rash of deadly Explorer accidents and the automaker calls "The Washington Post" study with the limited number of accidents cited in that report.
With the increased incidence of SUV rollovers, Washington plans to introduce a ratings system now, and that will happen soon to help owners and future buyers. The five-star ratings scale is based on the vehicle's likelihood of flipping over.
CNN's Ed Garsten now on what the system can and cannot teach us.
ED GARSTEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The new five-star rollover ratings system will certainly pose a marketing challenge for the makers of sport utility vehicles.
DR. SUE BAILEY, NHTSA: Because the center of gravity is so much higher in many trucks, vans and SUVs, they are going to receive a lower number, and therefore, one to three stars, whereas a car will usually get five stars.
GARSTEN: The Honda Accord LX, for example, got five stars, meaning that in single vehicle accidents where a second care in not involved it would roll over less than 10 percent of the time.
The Ford Explorer and many other SUVs got only two stars, meaning it would roll over 30 to 40 percent of the time in a single vehicle accident. The risk increases when the vehicle is loaded down with passengers or cargo.
To reach the rating, the government compares the vehicle's width with its height, a method called static stability. The auto industry calls the width to height ratio irrelevant and unrealistic. The industry prefers on-road testing.
ROBERT STRASSENBURGER, ALLIANCE OF AUTOMOBILE MANUFACTURERS: We don't think that looking at two very simple measures of a vehicle correlate well the incidence of real-world rollover. ROBERT LANGE, GENERAL MOTORS: It doesn't take into account any of the dynamic components of the vehicle, like the suspension or the tires or the braking or the steering.
JOAN CLAYBROOK, PUBLIC CITIZEN: The thing that will save the most number of lives is that these vehicles are redesigned so that they're not going to be susceptible to rollover in the same way.
GARSTEN (on camera): Today's SUVs carry a warning label on the sun visor. It tells drivers that SUVs are not the same as cars and that making sudden or abrupt moves could result in rollover, leading to injury or possibly death.
(voice-over): There is new technology being developed to deal with the need for SUV drivers to make sudden moves, like avoiding other cars, an electronic stability program developed by Continental Teves. It works by automatically adjusting brakes and steering so the driver can retain control of the vehicles during a sudden maneuver or after a tire blowout.
Here's a Mercedes SUV with the system off and the system on.
PHIL HEADLEY, CONTINENTAL TEVES: If you can keep the driver in control of the car, they're not oversteering or doing something foolish, you can avoid a lot of crashes, including rollovers.
ESP is a $500 option available on some vehicles now, but both the government and the industry say the best way to reduce rollover deaths is for motorists to use their seat belts. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says 65 percent of those who died in rollover accidents may have survived had they only buckled up.
Ed Garsten, CNN, Detroit.
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