GOVERNMENT releases latest rollover test results

Thursday, May 24th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's latest rollover risk ratings give no more than three stars to a number of sport utility vehicles tested.

Cars typically get four- or five-star ratings on a scale ranging from one star to five.

In ratings released Wednesday, four four-door SUVs got a two-star rating: the Chevrolet Tahoe 4x2, Ford Expedition 4x4, GMC Yukon 4x2 and Lincoln Navigator 4x4.

Three-star ratings were given to nine four-door SUVs and two pickups: the Chevrolet Suburban 4x2, GMC Yukon XL 4x2, Honda Passport 4x4, Infiniti QX4 4x4, Isuzu Rodeo 4x4, Lexus RX300 4x2, Lexus RX300 4x4, Nissan Pathfinder 4x4, Pontiac Aztek 4x2, and the Ford F-150 4x2, and Nissan Frontier 4x2.

The agency plans to test more 2001 vehicles in coming months.

The rating system, which is available to consumers on the agency's Web site, does not predict the likelihood of a crash, but estimates the risk of rolling over in a single-vehicle crash.

The ratings are based on an arithmetic formula using the vehicle's center of gravity and width. SUVs and pickup trucks are more top-heavy and thus more likely to get lower marks than a car or van.

The auto industry has criticized the rating, saying that driver behavior and road conditions are the primary cause of rollovers. Consumer groups do not like the measurements because they believe driving tests should determine the ratings.

Regulators contend the ratings correspond to real-world accidents _ more than 60 percent of fatalities in SUVs and more than 40 percent of deaths in pickups happen in rollovers. By comparison, 22 percent of car deaths involve rollovers.

Under a new law, NHTSA must begin conducting rollover driving tests for the 2003 model year.