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Frequently asked questions about rollover accidents

Rollover accidents are a type of car accident that has one particular feature that makes it very serious: the death rates are much higher in this type of incident than in other types of motor vehicle accidents.

But what exactly are rollovers? Or, rather, what parameter is used to determine whether an accident is a rollover or not? A rollover occurs when the vehicle has been turned to one side or directly to the other side or has been turned over completely.

Thus, rollovers occur when the vehicle undergoes too sudden and violent a movement. And that is why rollovers can lead to the expulsion of passengers, which, in turn, increases the likelihood of serious injury or even death of passengers from the vehicle.

To show the seriousness of rollovers, it is worth taking a look at the statistics provided by the Insurance Institute for Road Safety (IIHS): According to this official information, rollovers accounted for only 2% of all road accidents; however, when looking statistically at the percentage share of rollovers in the “passenger-vehicle deaths” category, rollovers account for more than one third of these deaths.

Let’s put these statistics in a simple and understandable way: 21,347 occupants of vehicles (passengers) died in accidents of all kinds, not just rollovers. But if we break that number down by type of accident, we find that 7,420 of those deaths were the result of a rollover; that is, this type of car accident accounts for almost 35% of those killed.

What are the reasons for rollover?

Rollovers originate when the driver loses the ability to maneuver the vehicle; in other words, and although it may seem somewhat obvious, the cause of rollovers lies in the driver’s loss of control of the car. This way, once the driver can no longer move the vehicle according to his will, there may come a time when the car intercedes for an object and starts to turn to one side.

Generally, objects that cause the vehicle to “trip” are kerbs and handrails.

However, there are also other reasons why a place can overturn. For example, in many cases, this type of accident occurs when the driver makes inappropriate maneuvers, such as crossing at a very high speed; or making very tight turns. These maneuvers exert an unusual force on the vehicle, causing it to shift to one side and tip over.

Other times, a rollover may occur even if the driver is driving in a normal manner; a very clear example is when there are objects in places on the road where they should not be, such as kerbs or an object that has a ramp shape. In these scenarios, the driver suddenly encounters these objects, which cause the vehicle to lift and then tip over.

Nor can we forget the strength that many vehicles can exert; that is why we have seen cases where a car has tipped over because it was hit from the side by another car. This case raises another question that we will address below.

What are the vehicles that usually experience rollovers?

Logic tells us that the vehicles most prone to rollover are the so-called off-road vehicles (SUVs) and pick-up trucks. And they are indeed the vehicles that are generally involved in rollover accidents.

To check, we will refer again to the official statistics: according to the IIHS, approximately 55% of SUV passengers who were killed in road accidents were in vehicles that overturned.

Similarly, 46% of those killed in pick-up trucks were in vehicles that had been overturned. If we want to contextualize this data, a comparison is enough: “only” 24% of the fatalities of normal car accidents were involved in a rollover accident.

There is a physical explanation for why SUVs and pick-up trucks are more prone to rollover than normal vehicles: first of all, it is necessary to point out (although you probably already know this) that SUVs and pick-up trucks are characterized by a higher height than conventional vehicles. Therefore, SUVs and pick-up trucks have a considerable distance from the ground.

However, these physical characteristics of SUVs and pick-up trucks mean that the mass of these vehicles is directed over the road in relation to the width of the vehicles. And the mass is directed much more upwards if the vehicles have people inside or if they carry any kind of cargo. It is a directly proportional relationship.

And if you don’t understand why this distribution of mass generates a tendency to tip over, don’t worry, we’ll explain it to you in a very simple way: this distribution makes the center of gravity higher than normal. In this way, SUVs and pick-up trucks are more likely to be tipped over.

What injuries occur as a result of rollovers?

At the beginning of this paper, we noted that mortality rates are considerably higher in rollover-related accidents than in other types of motor vehicle accidents. It is not false to say that the injuries resulting from rollovers are never minor, but always serious: catastrophic injuries, deep injuries and even death.

But let’s be more specific: the injuries that occur as a result of rollovers are traumatic brain injuries, internal injuries, broken bones, amputations and spinal cord injuries.

On the other hand, what are the ‘catastrophic injuries’? Catastrophic wounds are all those that never fully heal, but leave their mark on the person affected. In other words, catastrophic injuries are those that affect the victim permanently, leaving him or her incapacitated, with consequences, among other things. In short, they produce a catastrophe.

Catastrophic injuries are very delicate and cause the greatest complications in the area of compensation. A person who has suffered this kind of injury is never the same, either physically or emotionally; a victim of catastrophic injuries cannot be back in the state he was in before the accident: he or she cannot participate in activities as simple as playing with a pet, cooking, cleaning, having fun with children, among other things.

In addition, a person who has been catastrophically injured due to a rollover will probably not be able to have the same job as before the accident occurred.

Finally, catastrophic injuries cause emotional damage precisely because of the inability to return to a state of normalcy. These injuries are the worst of all and wreak havoc on the finances and emotions not only of the injured person, but also of his or her loved ones and family members.

What to do to prevent a rollover?

No single accident can be prevented in its entirety. However, it is possible to minimize the likelihood of any such occurrence. That’s why here are a few things you should do to prevent yourself from falling victim to a rollover:

Check the tires: If the tires are inflated to proper levels, the chances of that vehicle tipping over are greatly reduced.

Do not overload the vehicle: Please take a look at the load limitations of the car. Try not to overdo it and, if possible, do your best not to reach that limit. Keep in mind that the higher the load, the greater the chance of tipping over.

Don’t drive desperately: If you are driving as usual and suddenly find yourself with debris on the road, don’t panic; stay calm and slowly apply pressure to the brake, while performing a channel change maneuver. But execute it with moderation and without despair. This maneuver is much more convenient than moving the steering wheel from one side to the other without any care.

Learn about proper driving maneuvers: Common sense can be counterproductive in some cases, which is why you need to learn to use proper driving techniques, such as gradually slowing down if your car derails, instead of acting impulsively and trying to get the vehicle back on track.

Always respect speed limits: A large proportion of rollover accidents have been associated with driving above speed limits. Therefore, if you drive at a speed that is consistent with road signs, you minimize the risk of being the victim of a rollover accident.

Choose carefully the car you are going to buy: If you don’t already own a vehicle and are interested in buying one; or if you already have one and want to buy another, it is important that you think very carefully about your decision. Keep in mind that some vehicles have a higher risk of rollover than others; as we said earlier, SUVs and pick-ups carry the crown in risk, so think about it.

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