All vehicles are at risk to rollover to a certain degree, but the higher the vehicle’s center of gravity, the narrower the axle track, the more responsive the steering, and the higher the speed, the more likely a vehicle is to roll over. While rollovers account for just 3% of vehicle crashes, they were responsible for over 35% of passenger vehicle occupant deaths in 2011.

Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) rollover accidents seriously injure or kill about 10,000 people in the U.S. each year, accounting for more deaths than side and rear crashes combined. Rollover crashes are more deadly than frontal, side or rear crashes, because the roof can and often does collapse during the rollover, causing the occupants severe head injuries.

SUV and passenger vans can be more likely to roll over or flip than standard passenger vehicles due to their higher center of gravity.

Among the vehicles most notorious for rolling over:rollovers

  • Chevrolet Pickups
  • Chevrolet Tahoes and Suburbans
  • Dodge Pickups
  • Ford Escape
  • Ford Explorer
  • Ford Pickups
  • Isuzu Trooper
  • Jeeps
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee
  • Mitsubishi Montero
  • Nissan Pathfinder
  • Suzuki Samurai
  • Toyota 4Runner

Pickup trucks are prone to rollover, particularly those outfitted with long travel offroad suspensions that have increased ground clearance for off-road terrain. 15-passenger vans, a sector led by the Ford E-Series, are tall because of the heavy-duty suspensions necessary to carry many people, which also make them prone to rollover. The rollover tendency is exponentially increased when a motor vehicle is fully loaded.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety [IIHS], since 1978 pickups and SUVs have caused a consistently higher percentage of rollover deaths than cars. As a result of the dangers of SUV rollovers, manufacturers have created more stable vehicle designs.

When occupants are confined in the vehicle during a rollover, a vehicle’s roof, fully functioning safety belts, airbags, and the vehicle’s structural integrity are crucial to preventing serious injury. Head-protecting side curtain airbags triggered by rollover sensors can prevent the upper body from contacting the ground, and also prevent occupants from being ejected from the vehicle. Effective safety belt designs hold occupants in their seats and away from the roof as much as possible. Finally, the roof and other vehicle constructions must be strong enough to not intrude into the vehicle upon impact, as that will greatly increase the risk of serious head and neck injury to occupants.

Roof Structure and Occupant Injury

A great deal of attention over the last decade has been spent correlating roof structure and strength with decreased occupant injury.  A 2008 IIHS study found that sturdy roofs reduce the risk of fatal or incapacitating injury in rollover crashes. The IIHS study compared roof crush tests of 11 older mid-size SUVs with death and injury statistics from 12 states from 1997-2005. The study found that the sport utility vehicles with the strongest roofs had lower injury and death rates than those with weaker roofs.

Of the vehicles tested, the weakest SUV roofs were those of the 1999-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee, which caved in when exposed to a force of one and a half times its own weight. The strongest roof was on the 2000 Nissan Exterra SUV, which withstood a force of three times its weight with minimal damage.

In 2009, in an IIHS follow up assessment of 12 small SUVs, the Kia Sportage and Hyundai Tucson earned the lowest ratings. Roof strength on the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, Mazda Tribute and Mercury Mariner was rated only marginal.

Determining fault in a single car accident, vehicle rollover, or other roof crush accident can be technical and difficult. These cases are not standard small auto accident claims. If you or someone you know was injured or killed in a motor vehicle accident involving a car, truck, van, or other vehicle that rolled over, you need to have your case investigated by a law firm with similar experience. Craft Law Firm has handled rollover and auto defect cases against many major motor vehicle manufacturers. Contact us today for help with your case.