- The Washington Times - Friday, October 4, 2002

The government, which has been crash testing vehicles for years, detailed its first plans this week to give driving tests for rollover risk, an increasing danger as sport utility vehicles grow in popularity.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says a computer will drive vehicles through two maneuvers called "J-turn" and "fishhook." Neither of the maneuvers is likely to occur in real life, but they are designed to be easily repeatable and to push the vehicle's limits.

The J-turn involves driving the vehicle up to 60 mph in a straight line, then abruptly steering to the left or right. The fishhook will take the automobile in a straight line up to 50 mph, then make a left followed by a sharp right.

Each maneuver will be conducted twice once with a light load that includes just a test driver and instruments and once with a heavy load adding 175-pound test dummies in all the rear seating positions. Engineers are looking to see if the wheels tip off the ground.

Rollovers result in about 10,000 deaths and 27,000 serious injuries each year. In general, sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks have a higher risk of rolling over.

Congress ordered NHTSA to develop tests and a consumer education campaign to warn consumers about rollover risk after the Firestone tire recall two years ago.

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