The Rollover Accident Is by Far the Deadliest Risk Facing SUV
The rollover accident is by far the deadliest risk facing SUV, minivan and truck drivers. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) more than 280,000 rollover accidents are reported each year and sadly, over 10,000 fatalities. These types of accidents are usually twofold; first the rollover occurs and then the roof crushes in and seriously injuries the occupants causing major head trauma. Rollover crashes result in 36% more passenger injuries than non-rollover accidents and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has researched that if SUV’s were just one inch lower, deaths would by decreases by one half.
A SUV is 3 times as likely to rollover in an accident as a typical sedan. There are two main reasons for this; vehicle’s stability and high center of gravity. Rollover accidents are directly related to a vehicles’ center of gravity and the track width (The distance between the left and right wheel). A narrow track and high center of gravity can make a vehicle unstable while performing fast or sharp turns. In addition to the center of gravity, vehicle stability is also influenced by weight/passenger loads in the vehicle.
Beyond the physical characteristics of SUV, vans and trucks, additional causes of rollovers are tire blowouts, malfunctioning auto parts and of course, driver error. Maintaining correct tire pressure and performing normal vehicle maintenance will prevent some incidences. However, quick jerky motions are dangerous in high profile vehicles as well as high speeds.
The IIHS has recently released its “Top Safety Picks” for 2010 and the list was unusually short due to tougher standards for roof strength this model year. Twenty seven vehicles; 19 cars and 8 SUV’s made the coveted list. To earn a five star rating, the vehicle must be able to withstand four times its weight without crumpling more than 5 inches.
Subaru, Ford, Volkswagen, and Audi were winners in multiple categories. If you are considering purchasing a new vehicle, check the IIHS’s website, www.iihs.org/ for a full list of winners.
The Foundation for Traffic Safety has compiled some safety tips to reduce your involvement in a rollover accident.
- Don’t drive too fast–The faster you drive, the less time you will have to react to an emergency that suddenly appears on the road in front of you. Braking harder and steering more sharply can compromise the safe control of your vehicle.
- Steering– Many rollovers occur when drivers over-correct their steering in response to an unexpected situation, such as encountering a stopped vehicle or accidentally driving off the pavement. Sudden steering maneuvers at high speeds or on soft surfaces can lead to rollovers.
- Know proper maneuvering—if your vehicle leaves the paved road surface, slow down gradually, don’t stomp on your brakes. When it is safe to turn again, slowly merge back on the roadway. Never jerk your steering wheel to get back on the road.
- Be extra careful on rural roads—75% of rollover accidents happen on rural roads.
- Tires—improperly inflated or worn tires can make a dangerous situation worse; monitor correct pressure and replace tires when worn.
- Vehicle loading—consult your owner’s manual for proper safe loading techniques of your vehicle. Realize that any load placed on the roof will raise your vehicles’ center of gravity, increasing the risk of a rollover.
Lastly, when purchasing a new vehicle, research rollover ratings at www.safercar.gov
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