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 the 2007 model year show SUVs making progress.
The ratings give consumers information on the likelihood of rollovers, which kill more than 10,000 people in the United States every year. Rollovers account for more than a third of motorists killed in the country annually, despite being only 3% of all crashes.
Seventy-eight 2007 SUVs -- more than half of the total models -- received a four-star rating in the rollover tests, according to an analysis by the Associated Press. For the previous year, 48 out of 103 SUVs rated earned four stars. Only one SUV received four stars in 2001.
To guard against rollovers, automakers increasingly have installed electronic stability control. The technology, introduced by Mercedes-Benz in 1995, automatically applies brakes to individual wheels when the vehicle begins skidding off course, helping to steady the vehicle.
Eighty-six percent of 2007 SUVs have stability control as standard equipment, up from 43% in 2005, the government reported.
In NHTSA 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%. A four-star vehicle has a 10% to 20% risk and a three-star vehicle has a 20% to 30% risk.
Newly tested 2007 SUVs receiving the four-star rating include: 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.
Federal statistics show some progress in reducing fatal rollovers. In 2006, they killed 10,698 motorists, a 1.6% decline compared with the previous year. The rate of rollover deaths in 2006 per 100,000 registered vehicles was 4.55, a 3.6% decline.
In April, the government said electronic stability control would be required in all new vehicles by the 2012 model year, estimating it could save between 5,300 and 9,600 lives a year once it is fully deployed.
For 2007 pickup trucks, 74 out of 89 rated earned four stars. That compares with 53 pickups out of 71 from the 2006 model year earning four stars.
Government studies have found stability control reduces single-vehicle sport-utility crashes by 67% and one-car crashes by 35% compared with the same models sold in previous years without the technology.
A full listing can be found here.