Rare but Often Deadly Rollover Vehicle CrashesThe Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says that rollovers are rare but deadly because they account for less than 3 percent of motor vehicle crashes, but they account for more than a third of passenger vehicle occupant deaths. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2013 there were 21,132 fatalities in 7,017 rollover crashes in passenger cars and light trucks in the United States.

What causes rollover crashes?

Rollover crashes have complicated causes, however, there are certain vehicle types that are more prone to rolling over than others. Here are some of the causes of rollover crashes.

  • Tripping. Rollovers can occur when a driver loses control of the vehicle and it trips on a guard rail, a curb or other obstacles in the roadway.
  • Oversteering. When a driver makes an overcorrection by steering quickly to avoid colliding with something it can cause the vehicle to roll over
  • Vehicle design. Vehicles with a higher center of gravity such as SUVs can be top-heavy and cause rollovers.
  • Multi-car accidents. Multiple-vehicle crashes can cause a rollover when one vehicle strikes the side of another vehicle sending it into a spin.

Rollover accidents are more common on rural roads than city roads, which might explain why West Virginia see more of them than Washington, D.C. does each year. In 2013, the most recent year the data is available, WV had 305 rollovers, whereas D.C. had 20.

Rollover crash prevention

Because rollover vehicle accidents can be so deadly, vehicle manufacturers have created vehicles with more stable designs. According to the IIHS, Electronic stability control (ESC) helps prevent the sideways loss of control of the vehicle which can lead to a rollover. By the year 2012 all new passenger vehicles were required to be equipped with ESC, which has been found to reduce fatal crash risk in single-vehicle crashes by 49 percent and fatal multiple vehicle crash risk by 20 percent for cars and sport utility vehicles. ESC reduces the risk of fatal single-vehicle rollover crashes by 75 percent for SUVs and by 72 percent for passenger cars. This life-saving technology also has the potential to prevent rollover crashes in large trucks. By NHTSA estimates, ESC could prevent 40 to 56 percent of rollovers and 14 percent of crashes caused by loss-of-control.

Rollover accidents can cause catastrophic injuries for those vehicle occupants that survive these violent crashes. The tremendous forces in a rollover accident can cause traumatic brain injuries, neck and spinal cord injuries, broken bones and lacerations. When a rollover accident is caused by the negligence of another driver, those who are injured in the accident may be able to take legal action against the responsible party. In the event of the death of a loved one in a rollover accident, a family member may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit to recover damages for their loss.