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Vehicle rollovers 101

Vehicle rollover crashes cause serious – even fatal – injuries. Rollovers only happen in about three percent of car accidents, but they result in 30 percent of crash deaths. Rollovers can happen in an instant, but understanding why they happen and ways to minimize the chance of injury may help you stay safe.

Which vehicles are most susceptible?

Given the right set of circumstances, any vehicle could potentially roll in a crash. That being said, there are certain types of cars and trucks that are more susceptible. Vehicles with a higher center of gravity are more likely to roll if given the opportunity. This means that large commercial trucks, SUVs, vans and pickups are more likely to flip than small passenger cars.

“Trips” and flips

Single-vehicle rollovers don’t usually happen solely because of a bad steering maneuver like an over-correction (or under-correction) when avoiding a hazard. The vehicle usually has to “trip” on something like a pothole, curb, edge of the road surface, etc. An estimated 95 percent of single-vehicle rollover accidents happen because of “trips” like these.

Staying safe

In-vehicle safety systems are helping more people survive rollover crashes than ever before. These include side-curtain airbags, electronic stability control systems and basic seat belts. It’s important to wear a safety belt at all times in a vehicle; being fully or partially ejected from the vehicle increases your chances of serious injury or death. In fact, half of rollover fatalities involve partial or full ejections.

It’s also important to:

  • Have properly inflated tires with good tread
  • Properly place heavy loads as close to the center of the vehicle and as low as possible; putting a heavy load on the vehicle’s roof makes it more likely to roll
  • Forego the temptation to speed; 40 percent of rollover crashes involve excessive speed
  • Stay aware on winding, country roads; 75 percent of fatal rollovers happen on rural roads with a speed limit of 55 miles per hour or higher that are undivided and lack barriers


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