Tiger Woods was Lucky in SUV Rollover

Tiger Woods drove out of his drive way at a high speed and lost control of his SUV.  Apparently the SUV hit a fire hydrant, and during this, Tiger Woods over corrected and the SUV rolled over.  Fortunately for Tiger Woods, the world’s greatest golfer and first billionaire athlete, he was not seriously injured.  To be sure, he suffered minor cuts and bruises, and his reputation is taking a beating, but he can still walk, and swing a club.  Many of our fellow citizens are not so lucky.

One reason for the SUV roll over is that it has a higher center of gravity.  The auto companies have placed a passenger compartment on top of a truck chassis.  This raises the weight of the vehicle and makes it just that much more unstable.  When the vehicle is involved in turning, the higher center of gravity may cause the vehicle to lift onto two wheels.  This causes or contributes to cause the roll over effect.

It has been thought that most rollovers resulting in death, paraplegia or quadriplegia were the result of the roof crushing down in the roll over and striking the driver or passenger causing a fractured cervical (neck) injury.  Depending on how high in the neck the fracture might result, the person is either killed or paralyzed.  Much study has gone into this issue.  One response is to strengthen the posts holding up the roof.  Other solutions have focused on the passenger restraint system (Seatbelts).  One theory has it that the person in the vehicle is thrown upwards toward the roof, causing the injury.  If the person can be held in place, on the seat, head impact with the roof is reduced or eliminated, as is the risk of death or paralysis.

Currently all vehicles have a three point restraint system for front seat passengers.  This consists of a lap belt and a shoulder strap.  Testing demonstrates this system is more effective in preventing ejection (being thrown out of the car) than the lap belt alone, but it is not effective in keeping the person firmly in their seat.  The three point system allows the rider to move about, side to side and up and down, while preventing ejection.  An alternative to the three point system is the five point system.  This system is modeled on racing restraint systems.  The five point system is excellent at keeping the passenger firmly in the seat.

The key to making this system work for a passenger vehicle is cost and comfort.  After, all if a passenger will not wear it, it is worse than the obsolete single point restraint (lap belt).   I hope that the auto industry does everything a reasonable person would do to make sure its SUVs and trucks are safe on the road, for every family driving one.

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