Anyone who has ever driven in
an SUV knows the feeling of getting behind the wheel and thinking,
"I can't believe how high up we are - I can see everything!"
And as drivers of smaller cars know, while you're seeing everything,
they're seeing nothing.
Those behind you, if they're in smaller cars, may not be able to
see much of what's going on up ahead. So allow extra stopping space
between you and the cars around you. That gives everyone extra time,
and gives smaller cars extra space to avoid you.
Another important thing to understand is that SUVs aren't built
like small cars and don't drive like them. They have a higher center
of gravity, which makes them less balanced than smaller sedan-type
cars - and more prone to rollovers. Their steering is typically
not as precise as a car's -- and their suspensions are not well-suited
to driving or taking curved freeway off-ramps at high speed.
Though the go-anywhere, do-anything image conveyed in TV commercials
might lead you to believe otherwise, you need extra caution and
reduced speed when you drive unpaved, hilly roads. Rough terrain
carries its own set of risks, but the common theme is that obstacles
can cause blowouts, and blowouts cause a rapid shift of weight -
and potentially a rollover.
Most rollover accidents are single-vehicle crashes. That means
they are preventable by drivers. Bear that in mind whether you're
on a muddy fire road in the mountains or tooling around town with
a carload of kids and groceries.
Tips for safe driving in an SUV:
- Remember: the SUV doesn't handle like a smaller car and shouldn't
be driven like one. Always drive cautiously and wear your seatbelt.
- Drive more slowly than you would in a smaller car and remember
that your elevated driving position can make it feel like you're
going slower than you are.
- Have your vehicle serviced regularly, and pay close attention
to your tires.
- Try to avoid sudden or sharp steering changes. The high center
of gravity in SUVs can cause them to become unbalanced and possibly
tip or rollover if you take corners too quickly.
- Remember that cargo and even passengers further raise the center
of gravity, so slow down even more when the car is full.
- If possible, avoid passing other vehicles or changing lanes
in a curve.
- Do not carry too much weight. An overloaded vehicle is more
likely to roll over. Overloading any vehicle also causes wear
and tear to brakes, degrades handling, and can overheat tires,
increasing the risk of blowout. If your manual doesn't specify
what the maximum load capacity is for your vehicle, call your
- Underinflated tires also contribute to blowouts. Maintain your
manufacturer's recommended tire pressure.
- A final word of warning on tires: Driving at high speed for
an extended period of time is a common cause of heat-related tire
failure. Keep speeds reasonable.
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