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Vehicle rollovers: a primer

Rollover accidents cause serious injuries and often result in fatalities. Vehicle rollovers happen in about 3 percent of car crashes, but they yield 30 percent of all accident deaths. Rollovers can happen instantly, with little warning, but an understanding of why they happen and ways to lessen the chances of being injured in one might help you stay safer.

Which vehicles are susceptible?

Technically, given the perfect storm of circumstances, any vehicle could potentially rollover in an accident. There are certain cars and trucks and passenger and commercial vehicles that are more likely, though. Those with a high center of gravity, for instance, are more likely to rollover if circumstances are right. These include large commercial trucks (like semis and 18-wheelers), vans, pickups and SUVs.

“Trips” are often the culprit

Single-vehicle rollover crashes are uncommon in the absence of something for the vehicle to “trip” over like a pothole, road edge, curb, rumble strip, etc. About 95 percent of single-vehicle rollovers happen because a vehicle “tripped” on something. This means that over-correcting or under-correcting to avoid a hazard isn’t usually the main cause.

Safety first

In-car safety features are key in helping people survive rollovers. These include electronic stability and traction control, seatbelts, front and rear airbags, and side-curtain airbags. Whenever you get in a vehicle, remember to buckle your seatbelt; a full or partial ejection from the vehicle greatly increases your chance of injury or death. Half of fatal rollover crashes involve vehicle ejections.

There are other ways to stay safe and lessen the chances of being involved in a rollover crash. These include:

  • Having good tread on your tires (to better grip the road surface)
  • Properly placing loads in the center of the vehicle and as low to the ground as possible
  • Not speeding
  • Staying aware on winding roadways, as 75 percent of fatal crashes happen on rural roads

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