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Ford Explorer excels in crash tests

Louisville-built SUV gets five-star ratings

By Robert Schoenberger
The Courier-Journal

December 28, 2005 - The Ford Explorer, built in Louisville, has won top federal crash-test scores for front and side impacts — the first time it has done so in both categories at the same time.

The newly achieved five-star rating in frontal crashes means passengers' chances of serious injury in a head-on collision are 10 percent or lower when the sport utility vehicle is traveling at 35 mph, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The Explorer retained a five-star rating in side-impact collisions, meaning passengers' chances of incurring a serious injury are 5 percent or lower when the vehicle is struck by a 3,015-pound object traveling at 38.5 mph.

Rae Tyson, a spokesman for the agency, said the ratings were released earlier this month.

Ford spokesman Jon Harmon said the ratings will start showing up in the Explorer's print and television advertisements soon.

Ford has been advertising the Explorer heavily in recent months. Sales declined nearly 30 percent in the first 11 months of 2005 despite the launch of the redesigned 2006 model and heavy discounting.

Harmon said the crash ratings are due to a 2006 redesign, which resulted in a stiffer frame, more safety features, and interior changes such as moving the door handle to the armrest to make doors stronger.

"Clearly, achieving the highest safety ratings possible was a goal of the engineering team," Harmon said.

The Explorer gained a star on its frontal crash rating and its improvement was dramatic, said Albert King, chairman of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Wayne State University in Detroit.

The Head Injury Criterion, a statistic measured by sensors in crash dummies, fell to 329 for the 2006 Explorer from 519 in 2005. The federal limit is 700; the smaller the number, the better.

"It's down to the range where you only have to worry about mild concussions," King said. He noted, however, that crashes at high speeds still can be fatal.

For the 2006 model year, the Explorer and the Jeep Grand Cherokee have been the only midsize SUVs to achieve five-star ratings for both front and side impacts.

Chevrolet's Trailblazer, which got a five-star rating for side impacts, received only a three-star rating for front impacts, meaning drivers and passengers have a 21 percent to 35 percent chance of suffering a major injury.

The 2006 Nissan Pathfinder, which got a five-star side rating, received a four-star front-impact rating, putting injury chances at 11 percent to 20 percent.

The Dodge Durango won a five-star front-impact rating but the NHTSA has not posted side-crash results for that vehicle.

Tyson said most SUVs are getting four and five stars.

The NHTSA is still waiting for results on rollover tests.

Ford makes Explorers at its Louisville Assembly Plant on Fern Valley Road and in St. Louis.

Reporter Robert Schoenberger can be reached at (502) 582-4669.

3 Year Old Escapes Serious Injury in Rollover Crash

A 3-year old boy suffered only bruises and scrapes in a rollover crash Wednesday evening in Fabens.

Thursday, April 13, 2006 — It happened just before 6 o'clock Wednesday night at Alameda and Porter in Fabens.
El Paso County Sheriff's investigators say the boy, who was in the back seat of his mother's Chevy Blazer, unbuckled himself from his car seat.

The mother reached back to check on the child. As she did, the Blazer went on to the shoulder of the road. She overcorrected, rolling the Blazer.

The child was thrown out and his legs were pinned under the SUV. Rescuers pushed the blazer off the boy. The mother and two other children were not seriously hurt. All four were taken to Thomason Hospital where they were treated and released.

Redmond man paralyzed after crash sends speaker flying

By Peyton Whitely

Seattle Times Eastside bureau

A 27-year-old Redmond man is a quadriplegic after a stereo speaker in his car came loose in a rear-end crash and smashed into him, breaking his neck.

The speaker, in the rear of the man's 1973 Datsun 240Z, was not attached to the car, said Trooper Jeff Merrill, public-information officer for the State Patrol.

The man was rear-ended by a pickup while stopped at a ramp-metering light at the Northeast 70th Street entrance to Interstate 405 about 4:15 p.m. Saturday.

The driver of the 1998 Ford F-250 truck, a 40-year-old Bothell man, was speeding when he approached the ramp and failed to stop, Merrill said.

The speaker flew forward on impact and hit the Datsun driver in the neck. He was paralyzed by the injury and remains in serious condition at Harborview Medical Center, Merrill said.

The driver of the truck was not injured. The pickup was owned by a Seattle painting company.

The collision remains under investigation, and no charges have been filed. The drivers' names were not released.

The Patrol warned that it is important to secure objects in vehicles to prevent such catastrophes.

A widely reported incident involving similar circumstances took place in Kirkland in 1994 when Mike Frier, a Seattle Seahawks player, was paralyzed from the waist down when a 200-pound stereo speaker broke loose from the rear cargo area of a sport-utility vehicle and crushed him in a collision on 108th Avenue Northeast.

Peyton Whitely: 206-464-2259 or pwhitely@seattletimes.com


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