Rollover crashes happen in all sorts of motor vehicle accidents: there can be just one car involved, or maybe several in a pile-up. There can be rollovers of a passenger van filled with people. Sometimes, rollovers happen to big rig semi trucks as they are traveling at high speeds on freeways. Those same semi trucks can rollover while going at low speed around a curve. SUVs can rollover, too, particularly the larger ones.
So, what exactly is a rollover and why it is such a dangerous type of crash?
1. The Two Types of Rollovers
Those in the know categorize rollovers in two ways: they are either “tripped” or “un-tripped.” A tripped rollover is the one that happens most often. In fact, almost all rollover accidents in Indiana and Illinois are tripped.
In a tripped rollover, the vehicle goes off the asphalt roadway and starts to slide. The tires are trying to grab into soil now, not the hard road surface. Sometimes, the vehicle may hit a curb or guardrail during the slide, too. The slide into the softer surface can cause the tires to “trip” and with that force, the vehicle can begin to tilt and suddenly, there’s a rollover.
In the less common “un-tripped” rollover, there’s a vehicle going very fast, with a sudden loss of control that spins the vehicle into a rollover. This usually happens to vehicles with improper weight distribution (cargo shifting) as a driver jerks the wheel to avoid something in his path (road hazard). This is called “overcompensating,” when the driver turns too far and too fast and in doing so, loses control of the vehicle.
2. The Five Causes of Rollovers
It’s easy for folks to blame a driver for a rollover. However, it’s never that simple: rollovers happen because of several factors working together to cause a very bad and often fatal crash. Here are some of the factors that work together to cause a rollover:
A. Type of Vehicle
There are styles and models of motor vehicles that are more vulnerable to rollovers than others. Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) and the higher pickup trucks are more likely to be involved in a rollover than a smaller sedan because they are taller, and have their center of gravity higher off the road.
Perhaps the most concerning kind of vehicle for rollover risk is the van. We’ve warned about the dangers of those 18-seat passenger vans rolling over.
These are commonly used by groups taking road trips — church choirs, school soccer teams, and the like. Families rent them for mass travel to the weddings or graduations of relatives, too. However, the big passenger vans are notoriously susceptible to rolling over because of their high center of gravity and how their weight is distributed.
B. How Fast The Vehicle is Going
Speed is a factor in a rollover. While there are times when a big rig will be slowly taking a curve on the interstate and have a cargo shift that causes the truck to fall off center and rollover, these are far from the commonplace rollover crash. Most rollovers happen when the vehicle is driving fast.
In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic aand Safety Administration (NHTSA), almost 75% of fatal rollover accidents in this country happen when the vehicle is traveling at a speed of 55 MPH or more.
C. The Road Being Traveled
The road itself contributes to rollover accidents, too. It’s much more likely that someone will be involved in a rollover accident on a rural road in Indiana than on a busy expressway like the Borman Expressway. Why? The rural roads don’t have barriers to block a car that has gone out of control. Since rural roads don’t have dividers, it’s easy for a car to cross the line and spin over into the other line of traffic, or into the opposite shoulder.
In fact, 3/4 of all rollovers where someone is killed in the crash happen on rural roads with a speed limit of 55 MPH or more, according to NHTSA.
D. Driver Error
Everyone thinks they drive okay, if not better than most. But it’s not the case in rollover accidents. Research has shown than in almost all rollover accidents (90%), the rollover happened as the driver was attempting to make a routine type of driving movement. Drivers make errors in taking a curve on the road, or they lose control of the wheel for just a second while driving at high speed: simple mistakes that end up rolling the car and maybe costing lives.
Another big problem today that is contributing to rollovers, as well, is distracted driving. Texting while driving; driving while talking on the phone – even hands free; eating or drinking fast food while driving; and checking the GPS can all cause the driver to make a mistake that ends up in a rollover accident.
E. Driving Under the Influence
Sadly, reports are that 50% of the rollover accidents in this country involve drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Driving impairment is a big factor in fatal rollover crashes, particularly those where it’s a single vehicle crash.
How You Can Avoid a Rollover Crash
1. Check Your Tires
Before you drive or before your loved ones hit the road, make sure the tires have good tread wear and that they are properly inflated. (Places like Discount Tire will check your tires and fill them with air if need be, for free.)
2. Don’t Speed
Drive the speed limit, sure, but don’t speed — even if there’s no traffic on the road and you’re running late. A single car speeding on a rural road is at high risk of a rollover crash.
3. Don’t Be Distracted
Turn the phone off and check the map before you take off on your drive. Be aware of the job of driving, especially when you are driving at high speeds. If you are being driven in a passenger van or SUV, then don’t hesitate to warn the driver to keep his or her eyes on the road!
4. Know Your Vehicle
If you are driving a minivan or SUV, be aware that you’re driving a vehicle with a design that brings greater danger of that vehicle tipping over and rolling. If you or a loved one is going on a trip in a large passenger van or mini-bus, then make sure that van or bus driver is very aware that these types of vehicles are known for rolling and causing serious accidents.
5. Know Your Road
If you are traveling on a five-lane interstate highway, then you have less chance of a rollover accident than if you are driving the back roads of Northwest Indiana. Rural roads with high speed limits are high risk for rollover accidents. Be careful as you drive them.
What If You Are in a Rollover Crash?
If you or a loved one is involved in a rollover crash, then you need to be aware of the legal claims you may have. It is possible that the responsibility for that rollover lies with the maker of the vehicle, for instance. There are some models and styles that are known to be prone to rollover and product defect. Cargo that has been improperly loaded may be the basis for a legal claim for damages, too. Road hazards can be the basis for legal claims, as well as driver error. Passengers that have been hurt or killed in a rollover crash may have damage claims against the driver of the vehicle, its owner, and the organization that sponsored the trip.
Rollover Crashes are Often Deadly. Be Careful Out There!