The Attorneys General of 53 jurisdictions announced a $27 million nationwide education program this week designed to generate awareness of the dangers of sports utility vehicles and steps consumers can take to diminish those dangers.
The campaign is being financed through a settlement reached in 2002 between U.S. Attorney General’s and The Ford Motor Company resolving allegations of deceptive trade practices relating to the sale and advertising of Ford SUVs.
The states alleged that Ford failed to disclose a known safety risk concerning tire failures with certain Firestone ATX and Wilderness AT tires that came equipped on some Ford SUVs. Specifically, the states maintained that Ford continued to use the tires even after the company knew the tires had an unacceptably high failure rate and that using the tires made Ford’s SUVs more likely to roll over. The states also alleged that Ford advertising exaggerated the safe loading capacity and maneuverability of Ford SUVs. Ford denied any wrongdoing.
A disproportionate number of automobile fatalities reportedly involve accidents involving SUVs. The campaign aims to inform the public about the following critical safety elements that can help save lives:
Handling: SUVs have a higher center of gravity than passenger cars, which contributes to the higher risk of rollover. The chances of an SUV rollover are reportedly further increased by speeding, abrupt maneuvers, inattentiveness, tailgating, recklessness, aggressiveness or impaired driving.
Loading: According to the new consumer survey, nearly 50 percent of Americans do not know that overloading an SUV increases the risk of rollovers. The number of occupants, as well as the weight and distribution of cargo can increase the risk of rollover. An SUV can be overloaded, even if there is plenty of empty cargo space. SUV owners can find out the maximum load carrying capacity for their vehicle by looking on the tire label on the doorjamb or elsewhere in the vehicle or in the owner’s manual.
Tires: Tire size, pressure and maintenance are keys to SUV safety. Drivers should monitor each of these, and take them into account when loading an SUV.
Seat belts: Perhaps the most preventable cause of death in an SUV rollover is ejection from the vehicle. Eighty percent of those killed in SUV rollovers are reportedly unbelted.
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