SUV Rollover Accidents
In the United States, an estimated 45 percent of vehicles purchased are classified as SUVs or light trucks. Sport utility vehicles have become popular among the public due to their high power, 4-wheel drive capabilities and larger size. Unfortunately, it is these same characteristics that can lead to SUVs carrying higher rollover risks if mishandled.
A rollover accident is generally defined as an accident that involves a motor vehicle tipping over and landing on its side or roof. Every year, about 10,000 lives are lost due to an estimated 280,000 rollover accidents. These statistics reveal that while only about 3 percent of all auto accidents in the United States are caused by rollovers, these accidents are to blame for about 30 percent of crash fatalities.
Although rollover accidents are fairly uncommon, they still occur more frequently and are more dangerous for SUVs. In 2008, about 58 percent of SUV crash deaths were caused by rollovers whereas 19 percent of car crash deaths resulted from rollovers. The laws of physics dictate that SUVs are more prone to rollover accidents primarily due to having higher centers of gravity caused by their large sizes. The taller heights and heavier weights of SUVs mean that they are more likely to tilt or roll should they lose traction or strike a low object such as a curb.
Rollover accidents are dangerous largely because they can trap drivers and/or cause head injuries. These occurrences are generally the result of the SUV roof and/or side becoming crushed during impact. Additionally, a rollover cannot be controlled once it starts because the wheels leave the ground. The inability to control a rollover means such an accident can easily end up harming drivers and passengers of nearby vehicles as well.
Insurance coverage for rollover accidents depends entirely on the coverage plan the drivers involved hold. Minimum liability insurance coverage, for example, will cover the medical and car repair costs for all victim drivers involved and the repair costs of any guardrails damaged. Meanwhile, an insurance policy including personal injury protection will cover medical costs of the at-fault driver, and comprehensive insurance plans will cover repair costs of the at-fault driver’s vehicle. In addition, there is also uninsured motorist coverage, which will cover a victim driver’s medical and car repair costs if the at-fault driver does not have insurance.
SUV sales in the United States may be fairly strong, but automakers are taking precautions to improve the safety of all drivers. For example, more SUVs are being produced that are lighter and shorter. Additionally, new vehicle standards are requiring vehicle roofs to be built to withstand higher forces. Currently, a vehicle’s roof must be able to withstand a force 50 percent greater than its weight if its gross vehicle weight rating is 10,000 pounds or less.
In addition to automaker regulations, there are precautions drivers can take to avoid rollover accidents and deaths. For example, wearing a seat belt at all times will greatly reduce the fatality risk of a rollover accident. It is also important to make sure tires have healthy tread and are kept well pumped. Additionally, driving at reasonable speeds while being courteous to other drivers will help keep everyone on the road safe. Always remember that improper tire maintenance and aggressive driving can increase rollover risk for any vehicle, so practice safe driving for SUVs and cars alike.