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Can SUVs Handle Rollover Crashes? Some Can’t, says IIHS

Sport utility vehicles are often sold on their ability to handle rugged terrain, but how do they protect passengers in rollover crashes? The U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has singled out the Volkwagen Tiguan as the SUV with the strongest roof, and added “roof strength” to its panel of safety ratings.

In its latest round of testing, the institute assessed 12 SUVs for “roof strength,” comparing how much pressure a roof could handle before it was crushed. Of the group, the Volkswagen Tiguan, the Subaru Forester, the Honda Element, and the Jeep Patriot had the highest strength ratings, followed by the Suzuki Grand Vitara, the Chevrolet Equinox and the Toyota RAV4. The Kia Sportage and the Hyundai Tuscon had the poorest ratings. Under the IIHS tests, the higher the strength-to-weight roof strength ratio, the stronger-and safer-the roof is.

A stronger roof will protect passengers during rollovers because if a roof doesn’t buckle or crush during the crash, it won’t touch the passengers, and will also help keep the entire vehicle intact, preventing people from being ejected through doors or windows.
The institute has added roof-strength testing to the requirements for its Top Safety Pick awards. The new rollover safety factor will likely promote manufacturers’ changes, just as the institute’s original crash tests for side and front-end impact did, says Adrian Lind, IIHS president.

Although research links 25% of car accident deaths to rollovers, that figure jumps to 59% when an SUV is involved, according to IIHS data.

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