The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released figures that show rollovers of SUVs were the leading contributor to an increase in traffic deaths on U.S. highways last year.
The number of traffic deaths in 2002 topped the figure of 1990 with some 42,815 people killed, this despite greater seat-belt use and improved safety systems on vehicles including airbags.
According to NHTSA, most of the annual increase from 2001 can be attributed to rollover accidents involving SUVs. While rollovers represent a small percentage of all accidents, they are also a particularly deadly accident so that when they occur there are often fatalities. NHTSA said this year’s statistics also highlighted another safety issue that is rising from increasing sales of light trucks and related to what happens to cars that collide with them.
In head-on collisions of light trucks with cars, car occupants are three times more likely to die, according to NHTSA statistics. The chance of death in car-truck accidents rises even higher when cars are struck in the side by light trucks.