The Jeep Wrangler is an iconic off-road SUV with a devoted following of adventure-seekers. With its rugged styling and proven off-road capabilities, the Wrangler seems ready to conquer any terrain.
But how does this rugged design impact safety on everyday roads? Are Jeep Wranglers safe for daily driving?
While Wranglers do carry more safety risks than standard SUVs, improvements in safety technology and design over the years have greatly increased occupant protection. With proper precautions, Jeep Wranglers can be safe daily drivers for on and off-road use.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll look at key factors like crash test results, rollover risk, safety features, and tips for safe operation of Jeep Wranglers to help you evaluate their safety for your needs.
Table of Contents
A Brief History of the Jeep Wrangler
The origins of the Jeep Wrangler can be traced back to the Willys MB, an iconic off-road military vehicle first produced in the 1940s. After the war, Willys began producing a civilian version, later known as the CJ (Civilian Jeep).
In 1986, Chrysler introduced the Wrangler nameplate. Earlier CJ models provided only basic safety features and little protection in crashes. But Wrangler designs added more safety considerations while retaining the rugged off-road capabilities.
Over 30 years of ongoing improvements have made today’s Jeep Wrangler far safer than its predecessors, while still delivering the legendary off-road performance expected from Jeep.
Jeep Wrangler Crash Test Results and Safety Ratings
Third-party crash testing provides key insights into a vehicle’s ability to protect occupants in different types of collisions. How does the Jeep Wrangler perform in these important safety tests?
NHTSA Crash Test Results
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducts frontal, side, and rollover crash tests on all major production vehicles. Here are the Wrangler’s latest NHTSA crash test results:
- Frontal Crash: 4 out of 5 stars
- Side Crash: 4 out of 5 stars
- Rollover: 3 out of 5 stars
These ratings combine to give the Wrangler an overall 4 out of 5 star crash test rating from NHTSA – on par with many mainstream SUVs.
IIHS Crashworthiness Ratings
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) conducts additional vehicle crash tests and gives each model overall crashworthiness ratings of Good, Acceptable, Marginal, or Poor.
Here are the latest IIHS crashworthiness ratings for the Jeep Wrangler:
- Driver Small Overlap Front: Marginal
- Passenger Small Overlap Front: Good
- Moderate Overlap Front: Good
- Side: Good
- Roof Strength: Marginal
The less than stellar showing in the stringent small overlap front test highlights this as a key area for safety improvement. Side impact protection and roof strength are other notable areas where the Wrangler trails competitor SUVs.
Main Weak Points in Jeep Wrangler Crash Protection
Based on third-party crash testing, the Jeep Wrangler’s main deficiencies in crash protection include:
- Increased risk of rollovers
- Weaker roof strength
- Lower front and side impact protection compared to standard SUVs
However, it’s important to keep these results in context – while the Wrangler trails competitors, its “Marginal” and “Good” crashworthiness ratings still indicate adequate to good protection in most collisions.
Evaluating Jeep Wrangler Rollover Risk
The high profile and off-road focused design of the Jeep Wrangler contributes to a higher risk of rollovers compared to standard SUVs.
According to NHTSA data, Jeep Wranglers from model years 1997-2006 had a rollover rate of 15.5%, compared to the average of 13.0% for all midsize SUVs.
Factors Increasing Rollover Risk
Several inherent traits of the Wrangler increase susceptibility to rollovers:
- High center of gravity – The tall profile raises the center of gravity, making rollovers more likely in sudden maneuvers.
- Narrower track width – Provides good maneuverability off-road but less stability on pavement.
- Off-road design – Softer suspension optimized for the trail, not emergency swerves.
However, Jeep has taken steps in recent years to equip Wranglers with technology to better prevent rollovers:
- Electronic Stability Control (ESC) – Standard on Wranglers since 2012, ESC automatically applies brakes to prevent skids. This single addition has likely greatly reduced rollover frequency.
- Wider track with redesigned chassis – Starting with the four-door JK generation in 2007, Jeep increased the Wrangler’s width to improve stability.
Safe Driving Tips to Avoid Rollovers
While technology helps avoid rollovers, the driver’s skills and decisions are still crucial:
- Maintain safe highway speeds and avoid aggressive driving maneuvers whenever possible.
- Braking and steering inputs should be gradual and smooth.
- Exercise extreme caution in turns and emergency situations.
- Reduce speed on curved roads and during inclement weather.
Thoughtful driving can greatly reduce the increased risk of rollover inherent to Jeep Wranglers.
Standard and Optional Safety Features on the Jeep Wrangler
To evaluate overall safety, we need to look at both crash protection as well as the standard and optional safety technology built into Wranglers.
Standard Safety Features
All Jeep Wranglers come with a range of standard active safety features:
- Electronic Stability Control – Reduces skids and rollovers by braking individual wheels
- 4-wheel anti-lock brakes (ABS) – Prevents wheels from locking under hard braking
- Traction control – Reduces wheel spin by braking
- Advanced multistage front airbags – Deploy with appropriate force based on crash severity
- Side impact airbags – Protect occupants in side collision impacts
- Front seatbelt pretensioners – Tighten seatbelts in the event of a crash
Optional Advanced Safety Packages
Jeep also offers additional advanced safety tech on higher Wrangler trim levels or as part of optional packages:
- Blind spot monitoring – Alerts drivers to vehicles in hard-to-see spots
- Rear cross path detection – Warns of traffic crossing behind when in reverse
- Forward collision warning – Alerts of imminent front impacts
- Adaptive cruise control – Automatically adjusts speed to maintain distance from front vehicles
- Parallel and perpendicular park assist – Steers the Wrangler into parking spots with driver oversight
This new generation of safety features utilizes sensors, cameras, and computers to provide an extra layer of protection. While not necessary, their addition significantly improves safety.
Practical Tips for Safer Operation of Jeep Wranglers
The proper precautions and good driving technique are vital for safe travel in any vehicle, but especially in a Jeep Wrangler. Here are some key tips for reducing risk:
- Maintain your vehicle – Ensure steering, suspension, tires and brakes are in excellent condition. Replace worn components before they fail.
- Drive cautiously – Avoid aggressive acceleration and high speeds. Understand your vehicle’s handling limits.
- Watch for other motorists – Heed right-of-way laws. Check blind spots often. Keep ample distance between vehicles.
- Exercise extreme weather caution – Slow down in rain, snow or heavy winds. Avoid unnecessary driving in severe conditions given rollover risk.
- Don’t overmodify your vehicle – Lifts over 2″ and oversized tires compromise stability and should be avoided.
- Buckle up – Always wear seatbelts and ensure all passengers do as well. Jeep’s safety cell provides good protection when belted.
Safety ultimately comes down to the capability of both machine and motorist. A well-maintained Wrangler driven responsibly can provide safe travels.
Are Jeep Wranglers Safe for Families?
The Jeep Wrangler’s high-energy image prompts the question – are Wranglers a good choice for family transportation?
The answer is yes, but with some qualifiers:
- Jeep Wranglers offer adequate crash protection for daily family use when driven responsibly. But statistics show they carry more risk than mainstream crossovers.
- Ensure your Wrangler has side airbags for rear occupants. The 4-door Unlimited model provides far easier access for child seats and passengers.
- Advanced safety features are strongly recommended for family vehicles. Go for options like blind spot monitoring and forward collision alert.
- Less experienced teenage drivers may not have the skills to handle the Wrangler’s size and power. Consider whether they are ready before handing over the keys.
While responsible parents can safely drive children in a Jeep Wrangler, the elevated safety risks mean it’s not the right choice for every family. Carefully weighing the pros and cons for your situation is advised.
The Jeep Wrangler exudes adventure, delivering off-road chops unmatched in the SUV category. But does this rugged capability come at the cost of reduced safety?
Our in-depth evaluation shows that while traditional SUVs maintain a safety advantage, modern Jeep Wranglers still provide adequate protection for daily driving when equipped with the latest features and driven responsibly.
Ongoing improvements in occupant safety and crash avoidance technologies have made the Wrangler far safer than preceding generations. However, its design ethos does lead to inferior crash test performance compared to mainstream SUVs.
For those seeking the Wrangler’s fun open-air driving experience and off-road excellence, being an attentive driver and opting for the latest safety advances can allow you to responsibly enjoy this unique SUV with confidence. Your skills behind the wheel are the most important factor in keeping your family safe.