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The Explorer Isn’t A Killer Car


The Ford Explorer is not a killer car. The proof is in the driver death rate figures gathered by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which, if you didn’t know it, is not in the industry pocket. Quite the contrary.

These figures cover the years 1994-1997 in most cases. I know that the tire problems seem to be in more recent years. But if the vehicle itself were a problem, it should show up in these statistics. Take a look for yourself and make up your own mind. This first group of vehicles is all four-door, four-wheel drive 1995-1997 models, except the Grand Cherokee, which is 1994-1997, and the Toyota 4Runner, which is 1996-1997:

Driver death rates:

Vehicle All Crashes Multiple Single Rollover
Ford Explorer 56 19 37 26

"Multiple" means multiple car collisions, and single means a single car crash.

There are 156 models tracked. The average of all passenger vehicles is:

Vehicle All Crashes Multiple Single Rollover
All Passenger Vehicles 89 44 46 27

Let’s look at death rates for other sport utilities in the same general class. Again, four-door, four-wheel drive:

Vehicle All Crashes Multiple Single Rollover
Chevrolet T10 Blazer 72 23 49 45
GMC T15 Jimmy 68 24 44 34
Jeep Grand Cherokee 52 19 32 23
Toyota 4Runner 126 27 99 86
Isuzu Rodeo 99 29 70 46

From this we can see that the only vehicle that ran better on death rates was the Jeep Grand Cherokee, which has done very well in this measurement for years.

There’s another thing: The Chevy Blazer and the GMC Jimmy are essentially the same vehicles with different decorations. Yet we see different death rates. This happens all the time in these charts. Badge-engineered vehicles, two vehicles that are essentially alike but with different names, have different death rates.

How come? I will put it to a number of factors.

  1. Pure chance: One or a few of one nameplate was in a deadly accident by chance and that skewed the figures.
  2. The type of drivers the vehicles attract, which may be different by nameplate. Lincoln Town Car death rates are "surprisingly high," notes the Institute, but adds: "In part, this reflects the concentration of elderly people among Town Car drivers. Fifty-six percent of the people killed in crashes of this car during 1995-1998 were 65 years or older, compared with fifteen percent of all fatally injured drivers."
  3. The part of the country, because some nameplates are more popular in some areas than others.

One more thing. This doesn’t mean that one vehicle can’t have a particular problem, like Ford Explorers with Firestone tires from a factory in Decatur, Ill., and driven hard in hot country. But when you look at overall statistics, without knowing what you are looking for, it’s hard to find such problems.

What would I do if I had an Explorer with Firestones? I would put the tire pressure up to 35 psi. Correct, I wrote 35, not 26 as Ford originally recommended and not 30 as both Ford and Firestone now recommend. I would go to 35.

If I lived in New York, as I do, I wouldn’t worry but wait my turn to get replacement tires. We haven’t had the problem in New York.

If I lived in Texas, I would get those replacement tires on now, right now, and if I couldn’t get them immediately, I would run up the tire pressure to 35 and drive no more than 55 miles per hour until I got some Goodyears on the vehicle.

To see the report, see www.highwaysafety.org, or write to:

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
1005 N. Glebe Rd
Arlington, VA 22201

Ask for special issue, Volume 35, No. 7, Aug 19, 2000

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