Vehicles have become an integral part of transportation and daily lives. Although car designs have improved to make them safer, they still present a risk. Each year, there are approximately 1.35 million fatalities due to car accidents. This alarming information is perhaps why the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development includes a goal to halve the number of deaths and injuries from traffic crashes.
When buying a vehicle, people tend to focus on matters of design, performance, and costs. While these are important factors, consider safety first. Car accidents vary widely, and some vehicles are more prone to some kinds of accidents than others. You need to understand the unique safety risks your vehicle presents.
Sport utility vehicles (SUVs) are among the most popular types of cars these days. Within ten years, the number of SUVs in operation increased from 35 million to 200 million. People love these heavy-duty vehicles not only because they offer high performance, but because their size provides psychological security.
But the size of SUVs can be misleading in terms of safety, particularly when it comes to rollover accidents. While they only occur in about 3 percent of all serious crashes, rollovers are responsible for 30 percent of people killed in passenger accidents. And it just so happens that SUVs, which seem safer, actually are at the highest risk of rollover.
How Vehicle Rollovers Occur and Why SUVs Are More Prone to Rollovers
Any vehicle can rollover. However, vehicles such as SUVs, pickups, and vans are more susceptible, given their narrower, taller build. As such, they are top-heavy and have a higher center of gravity, which reduces balance and stability.
Any sideways pressure on an SUV while navigating a turn shifts the center of gravity to one side, increasing the potential for a rollover. The lateral forces on your vehicle increase along with your speed and the angle of any turn you make. Sharp turns cause a significant shift in the center of gravity, which leads many drivers to overcorrect in the other direction, creating a “pendulum effect” that decreases control. As it continues, the more the vehicle will swerve and may lead to a rollover.
Single-vehicle rollovers, however, are not usually caused by the loss of steering control alone. The major risk comes when the swerving vehicle encounters an object that catalyzes the loss of balance like a pothole, curb, or a roadside shoulder. This kind of rollover is called a “trip,” whereas “untripped” rollovers are not caused by hitting any obstruction and tend to occur at higher speeds with drivers attempting more aggressive change-in-direction maneuvers.
Common Types of SUV Rollover Accidents
Though rollover accidents make up a small proportion of total accidents, they account for a high percentage of fatalities. The National Highway Safety Administration reports that, in a recent year, close to 35 percent of passenger vehicles’ fatalities resulted from vehicle rollovers.
Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) suggests that tripped rollovers account for 95 percent of single-vehicle rollovers. Such accidents occur when the vehicle strikes an object on the road, or leaves the road and the tires dig into soft soil. Common types of tripped rollover accidents include:
1. Soft Soil Rollovers
The actions of other drivers, pedestrians, or even animals may require a driver to perform collision avoidance maneuvers. This may force a driver off the road. Compared to tarmac—the substance road surfaces are made of—soil on the roadside is often softer. If it’s too soft, the tires may dig in, causing the vehicle to trip.
2. Ramp/Guardrail Rollovers
Ramps and guardrails are used as markers and protection against collisions by cars from different lanes. However, when performing collision avoidance measures, they can create a significant risk of a rollover. This risk is greater depending on other circumstances. For instance, if you are driving down a two-lane road and an emergency forces you to veer to the right, you cannot avoid driving into the ramp or guardrail. In such a case, and depending on the speed and sharpness of your turn, you might end up in a trip rollover.
3. Steep Slope Rollovers
Steep slope rollovers by SUVs often occur in off-road environments. As the driver slowly navigates the car downhill, they may misjudge the slope’s steepness when making a turn. When this happens, it’s easy for the vehicle to topple and roll downhill.
In other situations, the vehicle can topple over if the slope is too steep going uphill. As the steepness increases, the center of gravity will be higher, and the car can fall backward.
4. Sideway Skid Rollovers
In some cases, the rear tires of your SUV may lose traction, causing the vehicle to skid. This is called fishtailing, and it can cause the vehicle to hit roadside barriers or curb, leading to a rollover. Such accidents often occur when the roads are wet or icy.
How to Prevent and Survive SUV Rollover Accidents
While SUVs have a higher likelihood of rolling over, drivers can operate them safely. And, over the years, manufacturers have made significant improvements in SUV designs, improving stability and decreasing the chances of rolling over. Furthermore, you can take measures to reduce the risk of rolling over and the severity of injuries after an accident.
1. Wear a Seatbelt
One of the simplest yet highly effective ways of reducing the severity of injuries during accidents is to wear a seat belt. This is especially so with SUV rollovers as there is a correlation between severe injuries and a failure to wear safety belts. If your SUV rolls over while you are not wearing a seatbelt, you are likely to get tossed around, and possibly ejected from, the vehicle. You may collide with the vehicle’s body or be crushed by it if you are ejected.
2. Choose a Newer Model
In recent years, SUV rollover accidents and fatalities have been reducing. Though several factors contribute to this trend, design improvements are key. Over the years, SUV manufacturers have been consistently working on improvements to make the vehicles safer. These include design adjustments to make the vehicles more stable and adding side-curtain airbags. One especially important factor to consider when choosing an SUV is the distance between the back tires. The longer this distance, the more stable your vehicle will be.
3. Understand the Vehicle You Are Driving
Different sized vehicles require different handling. As such, you shouldn’t expect to drive your SUV the same way you would a smaller passenger vehicle, like a sedan. Since SUVs have a higher center of gravity than smaller passenger vehicles, they tend to lose balance much easier. This means you must handle an SUV more carefully for example you should not take turns as quickly and sharply as you would in a smaller vehicle.
When you first start driving an SUV, take it slow for a few days and weeks to get used to how the balance shifts. This will also allow you to understand how the vehicle responds when you steer, accelerate, and brake.
4. Check the Tires Regularly
Because an SUV’s high center of gravity can easily shift, they are more susceptible to losing balance. Therefore, one of the main things you can do to ensure your safety is to reduce destabilizing factors. Under-inflated or unevenly inflated tires are one such destabilizing factor. Having one tire that’s not inflated to the ideal pressure throws off the car’s balance. Ensure that all your tires are always in peak condition and inflated according to the manufacturer’s recommendation.
Check the inflation pressure of your SUV tires regularly. If one of the tires gets damaged, replace it with a tire similar to the original set.
5. Do Not Overload
SUVs are big and powerful vehicles that have ample space. This makes it easy to load a lot of things in or on top of the car. How heavily and where you load an SUV can have a considerable impact on its stability. For example, it is best to avoid packing things on the roof, as that will raise the car’s center of gravity even further, increasing the chances of a rollover.
Preferably, you should pack your load inside the car. Place the heaviest items should go on the floor, as close to the center of the vehicle and as far away from the tailgate as possible.
6. Watch Your Speed
Generally, driving at high speeds increases the risk of accidents. Worse yet, it increases the severity of damages to your person and property in a rollover. Never exceed the speed limit and go even slower than the speed limit if necessary to maintain stability.
7. Drive According to the Conditions
A key to safe SUV driving is recognizing and adjusting to driving conditions, such as the type of road and weather. When driving off-road, the chances of the vehicle rolling over increase because of bumps and potholes. Driving off-road requires extra caution and slower speed.
SUVs are excellent at powering through muddy roads. But the same hazards that lead to rollovers are present on muddy roads. Inclement weather conditions—such as rain, fog, snow, and icy roads—call for heightened attentiveness and caution. Again, slowing down is one of the best ways to maintain control over the vehicle.
8. Avoid Panic Steering
All drivers encounter dangerous incidents on the road at some point. In such situations, the last thing you want to do is panic and steer the vehicle haphazardly. Over-steering makes it hard to regain control of the car and leads to the loss of balance that results in SUV rollovers. Instead, keep a firm grip on the steering wheel and keep the vehicle on as straight a path as you try to bring it to a stop.
Holding Other Parties Responsible for An SUV Rollover Accident
Depending on circumstances leading up to the rollover accident, there may be one or more responsible parties.
Some of the parties that may be responsible include:
- Negligent drivers and their insurers
- Government responsible for any defective traffic signals and signs at the site of the accident
- A manufacturer whose SUV design has defects
- The companies that rent SUVs for adventure rides on beaches and trails
SUV Accident Lawsuits for Rollover Accidents
Rollover accidents often result in severe injuries and fatalities. These injuries lead to pain and suffering, high medical expenses, lost wages, and other impacts on your life.
In the event of a rollover caused by another party, you can bring an SUV accident lawsuit against any party responsible for the accident and hold them liable for damages, or legal compensation. However, this requires you to demonstrate their fault. In such cases, the other party is often at-fault due to negligent driving.
The primary factors to establish in such cases include:
- The defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff
- The defendant
- breached the duty of care
- The breach caused the plaintiff’s injuries
Get Legal Representation ASAP
SUV rollover accidents often result in severe injuries, such as broken bones, brain injuries, and severe burns. In some cases, the injuries will result in amputations and disabilities, thus having lifelong implications. On top of this, the victims may incur high medical costs and lose their earning potential, leaving them and their dependents in a precarious financial situation.
After sustaining injuries, it is essential to rest and recover. But don’t miss your chance to hold at-fault parties responsible for compensating injuries. This requires swift action for many reasons; for instance, evidence pertaining to an accident can quickly become lost. Given the need for expedient action, it is a good idea to at least consult with an experienced SUV accident attorney who knows how to bring lawsuits and recover compensation for victims.
An attorney will know how to quickly track down and preserve crucial evidence, such as the police report on the accident. After that, the attorney can handle matters such as communicating with insurance adjusters and witnesses on your behalf. Their experience in such matters may significantly increase the amount of compensation you recover. Contact Michael T. Gibson, P.A., Auto Justice Attorney for a free consultation today.