Vehicle rollover ratings expanded

WASHINGTON – The government’s traffic safety agency is expanding its rollover rating system for cars and trucks.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s old rollover ratings were based on height and width as well as a test that includes a sharp turn at up to 50 mph. Five stars are given to vehicles that roll over 10 percent of the time or less, and one star to vehicles that roll over between 40 and 50 percent of the time.

The new system, available Monday on NHTSA’s Web site, retains the star rating but also lets consumers compare a particular vehicle’s grade to the ratings of similar vehicles. The system also shows consumers the percentage chance the vehicle would roll over in a crash similar to NHTSA’s test.

So far, the system only rates vehicles from the 2004 model year.

Rollovers represent only 3 percent of all crashes, but they are especially severe. They are responsible for one-third of the 43,200 deaths on U.S. highways each year, said NHTSA Administrator Dr. Jeffrey Runge. That’s partly because of vehicle engineering and partly because people aren’t using seat belts, Runge said, noting that three-quarters of those who die in rollovers aren’t belted.

General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. said NHTSA’s moving rollover test is extremely severe and representative of only about 5 percent of actual rollovers.

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