SUV safety ratings are important in determining the road-worthiness of sports utility vehicles.
Drivers of sport utility vehicles (SUVs) are especially interested in SUV safety ratings, the independent assessments of the relative safety of these larger-than-usual vehicles. Drivers who share the road with SUVs also have an interest in precisely how safe their roadway neighbors are.
Find ratings and information on the safest SUVs on the ratings section of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a non-profit, independent, scientific and educational organization dedicated to reducing the losses, deaths, injuries, and property damage from crashes on the nation's highways.
In addition to providing specific detail on how various SUVs (and other cars) perform in three safety tests, the Institute's Highway Loss Data Institute also awards top safety picks to those vehicles that perform best in the tests.
According to the Institute, the main goal is to identify and document how well various vehicles protect drivers and passengers in different crash scenarios. The Institute assigns grades on a four-point scale -- good, acceptable, marginal, or poor -- in frontal offset crash tests, side crash tests, and rear crash protection/head restraint tests.
The Institute says that these particular tests, and a few others, provide the best indication of how safe vehicles are in various crash scenarios.
In 2009, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the SUVs that performed best in the tests included the following:
While many people believe that SUVs will always fare better in vehicle crashes than smaller cars simply because of their size, it is important to remember that they are somewhat more prone to rollover risk than smaller cars because of their higher center of gravity.
In fact, a recent study by researchers from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of Michigan suggested that SUVs aren't any safer for their drivers than the average midsize or large car and not much safer than many of the most popular compact and subcompact car models.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety says that one of every three passenger vehicle occupant deaths occur in rollovers, even though only one of every 40 vehicles involved in a crash in recent years has actually rolled over. To help SUV drivers avoid the risk of rollovers, they offer several tips, including keeping the vehicle in good working order and exercising caution when driving, wearing seat belts, driving at or below the posted speed limit, and being careful not to over-correct one's steering when responding to an unexpected situation, such as maneuvering around an animal that suddenly appears on the road.
In addition, AAA recommends that SUV drivers should slow down carefully and gradually if the vehicle suddenly leaves a paved road surface, then slowly and carefully work the vehicle back onto the road when conditions allow. This is in contrast to the tendency of many SUV drivers to try to quickly jerk the wheel to get back onto the road. Also, being aware that many rollovers occur on rural roads that have no barriers, one should exercise extra caution when driving on these types of roads, since roadside objects can trip a vehicle when it leaves the pavement.
A few additional tips include keeping tires properly inflated, being careful not to overload a vehicle with people or luggage, especially luggage placed on a roof rack, which further raises the vehicles center of gravity, and purchasing an SUV with electronic stability control, which helps to keep the vehicle from under- or over-steering.
Automotive website Edmunds.com suggests that, in addition to safety considerations, SUV buyers also should consider the size of SUV that will most suit them; the price they are willing to pay, the engine size and resulting fuel economy, the luxury features they wish to have, the capacity for cargo and passengers, preferences for two-wheel-drive, four-wheel-drive, or all-wheel drive, and annual operating costs.