Vehicle rollovers involving SUVs, passenger cars, pickup trucks, and vans account for only about 3% of all vehicle crashes. However, they are much more dangerous than a non-rollover crash. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that in 2002, about 33% of all vehicle fatalities were caused by rollover crashes. Of the over 10,000 people who died in a rollover crash that year, 72% were not wearing seatbelts. Besides the high likelihood of death, survivors of rollover crashes are at risk of suffering a traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injury from the crushed roof which can occur in a rollover accident.
TYPES OF ROLLOVER CRASHES
Vehicle rollover crashes are either “tripped” rollover or “un-tripped.” A tripped rollover happens when a vehicle leaves the road and “trips” on a curb, soft ground, guard rail or other obstruction that stops the tires but allows the upper half of the car to continue and rollover. Generally, this type of rollover occurs when a vehicle leaves the roadway. Un-tripped rollovers, on the other hand, are less frequent. About 5% of all rollovers are un-tripped. They mostly involve high center-of-gravity vehicles, such as SUVs or vans.
To view an NHTSA video of a tripped rollover in soft soil, click the following link:
To view an NHTSA video of a tripped rollover caused by a guard rail, click the following link:
To view an NHTSA video of a tripped rollover of an SUV on a steep slope, click the following link:
To view an NHTSA video of an un-tripped rollover, click the following link: http://www.safercar.gov/Rollover/pages/An5Untripped.htm
Several different factors are involved in a vehicle rollover crash. The type of vehicle is a key factor. SUVs and vans have a high center of gravity and more weight, so they are more prone to rollover than a passenger car. Vehicles traveling at a high rate of speed are also at risk. About 75% of all fatal rollovers happened on roads with a posted speed limit of 55 miles per hour or higher. An SUV traveling at a high rate of speed is an especially dangerous vehicle.
NHTSA data shows that most rollover crashes happen on undivided rural roads where there are no barriers to keep the vehicle on the road. Furthermore, almost 85% of all rollovers involve only one vehicle.
AVOIDING A ROLLOVER
To help avoid a rollover, keep the following tips in mind:
- Avoid over-correcting or over-steering when performing an emergency maneuver
- If your vehicle leaves the roadway, slow down until it is safe to return to the road
- Be careful on rural roadways
- Make sure your tire pressure is appropriate for your vehicle load
- Make sure your tires are well maintained
- Make sure you do not overload your vehicle
- Check your vehicle’s rollover rating
VEHICLE ROLLOVER RATINGS
The NHTSA has implemented its rollover resistance rating system as part of its vehicle safety ratings. Its rating system ranges from one star (worst) to five stars (safest). According to its 2001-2003 data, passenger cars were all either four or five stars. SUVs, however, ranged from one star to four stars. Thus, a typical SUV has a much higher chance of rollover than the typical passenger car.
To view the NHTSA vehicle safety ratings for your car or SUV, click the following link: http://www.safercar.gov/Index2.cfm?#5star
VEHICLE DESIGN IMPROVEMENTS
Vehicle manufacturers have incorporated some new technology into their designs to help avoid rollover crashes. These innovations include electronic stability control (ESC), variable ride-height suspension (VRHS), and rollover airbags.
Electronic stability control is a system in which a computer controls the braking of the vehicles wheels to keep the vehicle heading in the right direction in case of over-steering or when the driver cannot make the necessary steering corrections. ESC is marketed under various names including Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Electronic Stability Program (ESP), and Vehicle Stability Enhancement (VSE).
The variable ride-height suspension is a system that controls the height of the vehicle to minimize the chance of rollover. These systems can be automatic or manual. VRHS systems are marketed under several names including Electronic Height Control (EHC), Active Height Control (AHC), and pneumatic suspension systems.
Rollover airbags are the side airbags found in some vehicles. These airbags can help keep a person in the vehicle during a rollover as well as protect the head and upper body.
Although many newer vehicles incorporate some or all of these new technologies, some vehicles do not, especially older models.
NHTSA ROLLOVER FAQS
To learn more about rollover safety, please click the following link to view the NHTSA’s Rollover FAQs: http://www.safercar.gov/Rollover/pages/faqs.htm
IF YOU HAVE BEEN INJURED IN A ROLLOVER ACCIDENT, SEEK LEGAL ADVICE
Personal injury matters are extremely time-sensitive. It is important to act promptly to preserve evidence, investigate the cause of the accident, and to file a lawsuit prior to the deadline imposed by the statute of limitations. If you or a loved one has been involved in a vehicle rollover accident, contact Los Angeles personal injury attorney James R. Gillen at 877-619-3095 or by e-mail.