By far, the deadliest risk facing SUV, minivan and truck drivers is a rollover car accident. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 280,000 rollover accidents are reported each year, taking more than 10,000 lives annually. In 2003 alone, 35.7% of fatal SUV accidents resulted in a rollover. That same year, 15.8% of fatal passenger car accidents resulted in a rollover. What this statistic points out is the fact that SUVs are much more likely to rollover in serious car accident, and the fact that SUVs often carry heavy loads makes them even more top-heavy and thus are more likely to be involved in rollover auto accidents.
As car accident attorneys in San Diego, we know how easy it is to flip a car upside down. In fact, if you have access to the internet, search “rollover car accident” in a streaming video site such as Youtube, and you will better understand the horrors of such car accidents. Part of the continuing car accident attorney training in our law firm involves going to specialty seminars where we have seen cars that are prone to rolling over, such as the Ford Explorer. Not only are many cars inclined to roll over, but many have poor structural designs, namely the roof, which must be stout in a rollover car accident.
Rollover accidents are directly related to an automobile’s stability in turns; that stability is influenced by the relationship between the car’s center of gravity and the width between the left and right wheels (track width). A high center of gravity and narrow track can make an automobile unstable in fast turns or sharp changes of direction — increasing the odds that it will tip over once it begins to skid sideways. The problem is most pronounced in 4-wheel-drive pickup trucks and sport-utility vehicles, which have a higher ground clearance for off-road driving.
Most fatal rollover accidents are single-car accidents that occur on weekend nights. The car drivers are frequently males under 25 years of age, and alcohol (DUI) is usually involved. In three out of four fatal rollover accidents, the people in the car accident were ejected from the automobile, indicating that they were not wearing a seatbelt.
Neither cars nor trucks are subject to a Federal Government Rollover Standard, although pressure for such a requirement has been building. To help predict which vehicles might have a greater likelihood to overturn in single-vehicle accidents, NHTSA introduced a rollover rating system in 2001. Reported on a five-star system, the rollover ratings are based on an engineering analysis of each vehicle’s center of gravity and the width between the front tires. The results are compared with police accident reports for confirmation. In its rating system, five stars equals a rollover risk of less than 10 percent, while one star indicates a greater than 40 percent rollover risk.
In the event that a rollover accident does occur, the majority of the determination in the fatality factor is how easily the roof of the car caves in. That is why, as car accident lawyers, we believe that two different types of standards regarding rollover car accidents should be implemented. First is the determination of the standard for the center of gravity for the car. And the next is the strength of the roof pillars for the car in the event of a car accident. These two rules being implemented could potentially save hundreds of thousands of lives every year in rollover car accidents.
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