Rollover accidents account for about 33 percent of all passenger vehicle deaths in the United States. As many as 10,000 Americans are killed per year in rollover accidents. Rollover accidents are the deadliest type of vehicle accident other than head-on collisions. Most rollover accidents are preventable if the driver and occupants of the vehicle obey traffic laws.
Causes of Rollover Accidents
Driver behavior and inattentiveness are the source of many rollover accidents. About 85 percent of all rollover accidents are single-vehicle crashes, meaning that no other vehicles were involved. In many rollover accidents, distraction or inattention prevented the driver from making a crucial defensive maneuver which would have prevented the rollover accident.
Driver Contributing Factors
Anything that causes a driver to be distracted or inattentive can contribute to a rollover accident. Alcohol and drugs impair judgment and reaction time and are involved in nearly 50 percent of all rollover accidents. If a driver is emotional or tired, the driver may also be dangerously distracted from the road.
Environmental Contributing Factors
Speed, location, and environment are also influencing factors in rollover accidents. Approximately 75 percent of rollover accidents occur on rural roads where the posted speed limit is 55 miles per hour or greater. In many cases, rollovers result when the driver hits a “trip”, which is anything that may cause the vehicle to tip. Animals, extreme weather, debris, uneven roads, or any other obstruction on the roadway can cause rollover accidents if the driver does not maneuver properly to avoid the obstruction.
Vehicles that are taller and narrower are more likely to be involved in a rollover accident due to the higher center of gravity. SUVs, tractor trailer trucks, pickup trucks, and vans are all vehicles that have a higher center of gravity. Carrying heavy weights on the top of any vehicle also raises the center of gravity, putting the vehicle at increased risk for rollovers.
Types of Rollover Accidents
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 95 percent of all rollover accidents occur when a vehicle is tripped by an obstruction, including slopes or uneven lanes on the road. In most cases, the driver will attempt to correct the vehicle when it hits the object, and will impact a guardrail, soft soil, or other obstruction that will cause the vehicle to complete the rollover. Over correction and excessive speed can add to the peril of tripped rollover accidents.
In the five percent of cases where an obstruction did not cause the vehicle to lose balance, corrective maneuvers lie at the source of the accident. Drivers may swerve or attempt to brake suddenly to avoid a collision, and the vehicle may begin to roll over. The risk of these types of accidents is greatly increased on roads with a steep slope.
Prevention and Safety
About 69 percent of Americans that died in rollover accidents were not wearing a seatbelt. Wearing a seatbelt and following traffic laws greatly increases the risk of survival in the case of a rollover accident, and may help to prevent rollover accidents. Following speed limits and being alert to the conditions of the road greatly increase the probability that a driver will be able to safely avoid obstructions or collisions without being involved in a rollover accident.
Causes of Rollover Accidents
Vehicle manufacturers are constantly working to discover and apply features which will help to decrease the risk of rollover accidents and increase the chance of survival in the case of a rollover accident. Improvements in safety belt durability, air bag response and qualities, and increased frame durability have all been implemented to decrease the severity of bodily harm in the event of a rollover accident. Improvements in braking systems, steering, and tire design have been put into operation to help prevent rollover accidents from occurring.
Road Signs and Laws
In order to warn of slopes and other conditions which may increase the risk of rollover accidents, road signs have been put into place. If temporary road conditions such as debris or uneven asphalt are increasing the risk of rollover accidents, crews may be sent out to clear the road, and the road may be detoured or shut down until the situation is corrected. Lawmakers also assess and update traffic laws in order to improve safety and prevent rollover accidents.
“Rollover Crash Mechanisms and Injury Outcomes for Restrained Occupants.” NHTSA People Saving People. U.S. Department of Transportation, n.d. Web. 23 Mar 2014. <http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/809894.pdf>
“Rollover.” Safecar.gov. U.S. Department of Transportation, n.d. Web. 23 Mar 2014. <http://www.safercar.gov/Rollover>