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The What, How, and Why of Rollover Vehicle Accidents

A vehicle rollover is exactly what it sounds like: a vehicle which, for any given reason, rolls over onto its side or roof. The chances of a rollover accident increase when you drive an SUV, pickup truck, or van as larger vehicle are more prone to this type of accident. Today, we want to look at the causes of rollovers, the types of injuries you may sustain, and what you can do to keep yourself safe.

What are the causes of rollover accidents?

Rollover accidents can happen on any type of road for many different reasons. One of the most common causes of a rollover accident is driver negligence, though it’s not the only reason. That negligence often takes the form of speeding and aggressive driving, and distracted driving.

The risk of a rollover accident can also increase because of:

  • Tires with insufficient treads, which are unable to grip the road properly
  • Design defects in the vehicle
  • Poor road maintenance or uneven pavement
  • Overloading the vehicle with too much cargo

A vehicle can also roll over when it is struck in a side-impact (T-bone) crash. The force of the collision when a vehicle is t-boned can wind up causing that vehicle to flip or roll, crushing the roof, and causing serious injuries to the occupants.

How center of gravity can increase the risk of a rollover

A taller vehicle, like an SUV, has a higher risk of rolling over than a short vehicle, like a sedan. Tall vehicles are ones with higher centers of gravity, which makes them top heavy. When a driver takes a curve or a turn too quickly, the center of gravity shifts, and the vehicle can keep moving in that lateral direction, causing the vehicle to tip.

Check out this video by NASA’s Conceptual Image Lab to see how the center of gravity can swing back and forth like a pendulum as a vehicle takes a curve: Click on the picture to view video.

What is tripping?

“Tripping” is a term used by government agencies to describe vehicle rollover crashes. Tripping occurs when a vehicle hits a pothole, a curb, a mound of dirt, or another type of debris. The forward motion of the vehicle stops in a tripping incident, causing it to roll forward or onto its side.

What vehicles are prone to rolling over?

As we said earlier, taller vehicles are more likely to tip than shorter ones. According to Motor Biscuit, these are the Top 10 vehicles likely to tip, from least likely to most likely:

10.  Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 4WD

9.    Toyota 4Runner

8.    Ram 2500

7.    Ford F-250

6.    Jeep Renegade

5.    GMC Yukon

4.    Chevrolet Tahoe RWD

3.    Cadillac Escalade

2.    Nissan NV3500

1.    Chevrolet Colorado

Injuries caused by rollover accidents

Rollover crashes occur in roughly three percent of serious crashes, according to statistics from Consumer Reports. Those same rollover crashes account for 35% of fatalities in crashes involving passenger vehicles. So even though rollovers aren’t common, they are often deadly. Survivors may suffer catastrophic injuries, including:

  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
  • Internal bleeding from organ damage
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Back, beck, and shoulder injuries
  • Scarring and disfigrement
  • Compound fractures
  • Crushing injuries

How rollover tests are conducted

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducts rollover tests on almost all SUVs, pickup trucks, and vans. These tests are on-road and very dynamic. The NHTSA then issues scores for every vehicle it tests so consumers have a better understanding of how the vehicle will handle a rollover situation.

The vehicles are put through a test known as a “fishhook.” This is when the vehicle is put through a quick, left-to-right turn. The fishhook test is conducted at increasing speeds between 35 and 50 MPH. The goal of the test is to simulate a driver overcorrecting the steering of the vehicle.

Should the vehicle have two of its wheels come off the ground, it is called a “tip-up.” If this happens, the test is immediately stopped. If the vehicle is able to slide out or get through the test without a tip-up happening, the vehicle effectively passes the test.

The NHTSA assigned star ratings to every vehicle on the market. The vehicle can earn anywhere from one to five stars. If a vehicle earns five stars in the rollover category, it means that there is a 10% or less chance that a vehicle will roll over in a single-vehicle crash. If the vehicle is given one star, it means it has a 40% chance it will rollover.

How to reduce your risk of a rollover crash

You may not always be able to prevent a crash, but you can take steps to minimize your risk.

  • Always wear a seatbelt, and make sure your passengers wear theirs, too. Seat belts really do save lives, especially in rollovers.
  • Check the tire pressure on your vehicle before you drive. Good tire pressure can reduce your risk of a tip over (and increase your gas mileage, too).
  • Do not overload your vehicle. Make sure whatever you’re carrying is evenly distributed, weight-wise, and secured in your vehicle.
  • Monitor your speed at all times, but especially when traveling on curvy roads, or when you need to make turns.
  • Be mindful when traveling on country roads. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that nearly three-quarters of rollover fatalities occur on them.

The newest SUVs, pickup trucks, and vans are safer when it comes to preventing rollover crashes thanks to electronic stability control, so make sure that’s a part of any vehicle you buy.

Rollover accidents can change your life in an instant. The injuries caused by a rollover accident can prevent you from returning to work or can leave you paralyzed. Plattner Verderame PC can help you recover the compensation you need after a rollover-related injury. Call 602-266-2002 or complete the contact form and schedule your free initial consultation. We operate offices in Phoenix and Tempe.