What’s Causing These Deadly Rollover Accidents in Indiana and Illinois? Is It Roof Crush?


What’s Causing These Deadly Rollover Accidents in Indiana and Illinois? Is It Roof Crush?

In our previous post, we pulled examples of seven different rollover accidents reported over the past six weeks.  All these rollovers happened in our part of the country (Indiana and Illinois).  Almost all involved fatalities.

However, there were all sorts of differences in the rollovers we listed.  Variables included the time of day (or night); type of road (rural or urban; highway or suburban street; etc.); the type of vehicle (big rig; pickup; SUV; sedan; ATV); and the age and gender of the driver. 

There does not seem to be one easy answer to stopping rollovers here in our community because they can happen to any kind of driver, in any kind of vehicle, on any type of roadway.  So what is to blame here for all these serious and deadly rollover accidents?

Causes of Rollover Accidents in Illinois and Indiana

We’ve delved into the details of a rollover accident before.  There are two basic kinds of rollovers: “tripped” and “untripped” and what experts consider to be the five main causes of rollovers.

According to federal crash studies, the five main reasons that rollover accidents happen are:

  1. The type of vehicle is prone to rollovers. For instance, it is known that SUVs, pickup trucks, and minivans are more prone to rollover accidents than sedans because they have a higher center of gravity.
  2. The speed the vehicle is moving at time of the crash. The faster that a vehicle is moving, the easier it is for the driver to lose control of it and crash in a rollover.
  3. Roadway conditions can invite rollover accidents. Rural routes without protective guardrails to block a vehicle from veering into a ditch or gulley are notorious for inviting a rollover.
  4. Driver error, particularly those involving distracted driving, can cause even the most experienced driver to roll over his vehicle.
  5. Drivers under the influence of drugs or alcohol are also more likely to use control of their vehicle and crash in a rollover.

 Why Rollover Accidents Are So Deadly: Roof Crush

Safety advocates at ConsumerReports.com have studied rollover accidents in this country and have come to several conclusions on what causes rollover accidents and why these kinds of accidents are so dangerous and deadly.

One concern voiced by Consumer Reports is the tire factor:  tire-grip can contribute to rollovers and having “performance tires” put on an SUV or pickup truck may increase the change of losing control and tipping over in a rollover crash.

Another issue their researchers point to:  the ability of the vehicle’s roof to withstand the impact of a rollover crash.  The “roof-crush” issue is a main reason so many people die in rollovers: the roof of the vehicle folds and bends from the force of the crash.  The victims can be pinned and trapped inside the vehicle.  They can also be hit and harmed by the roof itself.

In a rollover, the “roof crush” can result in catastrophic harm to the vehicle’s occupants.  

According to Public Citizen, another safety advocate group, right now “roof crush” regulations do not do enough to protect drivers and passengers from death in a rollover accident.

  1. Roofs need to be able to support four times the vehicle weight. Right now, only three times the weight is required.
  2. Safety belts are not mandated to keep in place when a rollover happens. The majority of seat belts installed in vehicles today do not hold in the force of rollover crash, allowing the victims to fly out of position and into the roof.

From Public Citizen:

“When roofs crush in a rollover, the survival space for occupants is greatly limited or eliminated altogether, so that the heads and spines of occupants contact the roof. In addition, roof crush can open ejection portals– making windows and the windshield area very large and leading to ejection of occupants, which is frequently fatal.”

Justice for Victims of Roof Crush Rollover Accidents

After a loved one has been seriously injured or killed in a rollover crash, there may be questions about what caused the accident.  Often police at the scene will report that further investigation will be needed in the event and what caused the crash (see, e.g., our earlier reported rollover accident examples – most had no clear and immediate cause).

Just as other types of fatal motor vehicle accidents, experts will have to analyze the event and come to their opinions and conclusions of what happened in the incident and who or what is at fault for the crash.

Sometimes, this will be an at-fault driver who was driving under the influence or while texting on his phone.  However, there are also occasions where other third parties may be culpable.

In a big rig rollover crash, for instance, there may be liability with the company in charge of repair and maintenance of the semi and its tires or brakes.  Also, fault may lie with those who loaded the cargo onto the tractor trailer:  improper loaded cargo can shift and throw the semi into a roll.

Finally, there may be a product liability or defective design claim to be made against those responsible for the vehicle or its components.  Key here is the known problem with roof design where vehicle roofs are not being made to withstand the force of a rollover impact.

From Public Citizen:

The auto industry has tried to obscure the engineering principles which would have emphasized maintaining survival space by arguing in court and to NHTSA that occupants “dive” into the roof. This ignores the obvious fact that if the seat structures and safety belts held occupants in place during a roll, and if the roof was strong enough to withstand the weight of the car, the head and spine of occupants would be safe.  …. That is to say, where there is roof crush, occupants are injured, and where someone is uninjured, there is little-or-no roof crush.

For more, read “Improving Roof Strength Is Feasible and Inexpensive,” published by Public Citizen and its notice “April 12 – GM Roof Crush Litigation Documents Now Available” with the document list provided here.

It is vital that everyone who uses the roadways of Indiana and Illinois for transport – drivers, passengers, and their loved ones – understand how real the danger is today of a deadly rollover accident here in Indiana and Illinois.

Personal injury laws including those based upon negligence, product liability, and defective design, exist in both states to protect victims of rollover accidents in Indiana and Illinois and bring them justice.  Too many tragedies continue to happen here because of rollover crashes.  Let’s be careful out there!

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