As I’ve previously written, 94% of car accidents are caused by human error, which is to say they are PREVENTABLE. One of the worst types of car accidents is a rollover. This happens when a vehicle flips over onto its side or roof. Often a sharp turn at high speeds will cause the vehicle to tip and roll. A driver’s handling, and driving poorly for the road and/or weather conditions are key factors to tipping. This is to say, despite the many dangerous, curvy mountain roads we have here in Bellingham and Whatcom County, these roads are not enough of a factor alone to tip a car over. 

Research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), has found there are six main factors that increase the risk of a rollover car accident.

Type of vehicle

Any vehicle can roll. But some vehicles have a tendency to roll more often. SUVs, pickup trucks and vans are at an increased risk of a rollover due to their size and shape. Taller, narrower vehicles have a higher center of gravity. This means that it takes less speed to tip such a vehicle generally, if it is the only vehicle involved in the wreck.

High speed

Nearly half – 40% – of all fatal rollover crashes involve someone driving too fast. This factors in usually on roads like highways where “too fast” is above 55 mph. Again, it is high speed, especially coupled with the higher center of gravity, that increases a vehicle’s chance of rolling. 

Driving while intoxicated

Nearly half of all fatal rollover crashes involve a drunk driver, reports NHTSA. It doesn’t take much alcohol to blur a driver’s sense when it comes to driving. Reduced muscle coordination from alcohol means slower reaction time, reflexes, and blurred vision. Alcohol also heightens a driver’s sense of driving well, as well as contributes to a driver’s willingness to speed above the posted limit, or drive too fast for the road conditions. 

Rural roads

Clear divisions and barriers help a driver keep it between the ditches. But rural roads don’t always have those safety measures, even at highway speeds. This contributes a couple more factors that tip a driver’s chance towards rolling. NHTSA has found that nearly 75% of fatal rollovers occur on rural highways, where the posted speed limit is at least 55 mph. 

Routine driving

Routine driving can make a driver more likely to check that text message. In fact, NHTSA data suggests that the vast majority of fatal, single-vehicle rollover crashes – over 90% – involved “no brainer” driving maneuvers such as driving straight ahead and then approaching a curve in the road. If a driver is distracted, he won’t be paying attention in time to slow down and take the curve. Over-correct, or miss the curve entirely, and you’ve nearly guaranteed your rollover crash, especially if you’re speeding along. This stat makes it easy to conclude that no other factor is as dangerous in contributing to rollover accidents than distracted or impaired driving. Even if  you’re in a roadster on a clearly-marked highway going too fast… if you are looking at your phone as you speed along, you’ve greatly increased your chances of a rollover wreck. 

Single-car crashes

This is another one that makes me think distraction or impairment is the culprit behind it. Almost 85% of all rollover crash deaths occur in single-vehicle accidents. 

Rollover fatality statistics

It’s a nightmare scenario to be in a rollover yourself or know your friend or loved one died from one. Rollovers are extremely dangerous, and carry a higher death rate than any other kind of car accident. Luckily, they are as rare as they are dangerous. Only 2% of all the 9.1 million motor vehicle accidents that happened in 2010 were rollovers. They are, however, behind a disproportionate number of fatalities. Based on 2010 data again, 35% of all passenger vehicle fatalities occurred in rollover crashes, which equates to 7,600 people losing their lives in this horrible type of accident. Please note 69% of those deceased weren’t wearing their seatbelts.

The long and short of it – do not drive distracted, especially if you’re driving fast. Wear your seatbelt

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