Even though they occur less frequently, single vehicle rollover accidents kill more people than any other type of auto accident. Due to design flaws, sport utility vehicles (SUVs) are more likely to roll than other types of autos. Added risk factors, such as defective tires, make them even more likely to roll, causing serious injuries and death. In 2000, 36% of fatal auto crashes involved SUV rollovers.
High Center of Gravity
SUVs are more likely to roll than other vehicles because of their high center of gravity. Their design gives them a distinct off-road advantage, but makes them dangerous for everyday driving:
- High clearance
- Tall and narrow
Because of the high center of gravity, adding passengers and cargo makes the vehicle even more top heavy. A lower, wider wheel base would make them less top heavy and less likely to roll.
How They Roll
Certain events and circumstances can cause any vehicle to roll, if there is great enough momentum. The high center of gravity in an SUV means that less momentum and force is needed to send it into a roll.
Tripping. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) nearly 85% of rollovers are single vehicle accidents, and 95% of single vehicle rollovers are caused by "tripping." It happens when one of the tires hits something which suddenly slows it down, such as a soft shoulder, curb, or bump in the road, and the momentum of the vehicle pushes it over that tire, pitching forward or sideways, into a roll.
Tire failure. A blow out is dangerous in any type of vehicle, and especially dangerous in vehicles with a high center of gravity. Tire failure can initiate a rollover by causing the vehicle to go out of control, or by acting as the tripping mechanism itself. Tire failure has become a common cause of rollovers in SUVs because so many have been fitted with defective tires, such as those involved in the Firestone recall and more recently defective tires from China .
Why SUV Rollovers are Deadly
Obviously, a rollover is a serious accident. We've already established that SUVs (followed by minivans and pick-ups) are more likely to roll than other vehicles. Factors which affect your likelihood to be injured in the event of an accident are referred to as crashworthiness. So, in addition to the elevated risk of actually having a rollover accident, SUVs have crashworthiness factors which elevated your risk of being injured or killed when a rollover occurs.
Poor roof crush resistance . Roof crush is common in rollover accidents, and causes some of the worst injuries. Hollow roof pillars and the lack of roll bars mean that many SUVs do not have adequate roof crush resistance. Roll bars are standard equipment for off roading. SUVs were originally designed for off road use, but since most are now purchased for highway and street driving, they are not equipped with roll bars. Consumers must request them and, of course, pay extra for them.
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in an SUV rollover accident, or in any other accident due to a defective vehicle, contact an experienced defective vehicle attorney today.