North Carolina is a popular place to hit the road with destinations from beaches to mountains to vibrant cities. With close to 80,000 miles of state highways, North Carolina boasts the largest state highway system in the U.S., plus five interstate routes crisscross the state.
When you add commercial traffic to the mix, the potential for serious motor vehicle accidents is certainly there, especially in the western part of the state where dangerous roads twist and turn through the mountainous terrain. North Carolina motor vehicle accident attorneys are excellent resources for information about legal rights and potential remedies for those unfortunate enough to be involved in accidents in the state.
One particularly dangerous type of car accident is the rollover, when a vehicle tips or rolls onto its side or roof during the incident. According to the Department of Biomedical Engineering of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, "rollover crashes have a higher fatality rate than any other crash mode." Yet rollovers are a very small percentage of all crashes, so while they don't happen often, when they do, death or serious injury are much more likely.
For example, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that rollovers are less than 3 percent of all crash types, but cause over a third of all motor vehicle accident occupant fatalities.
Some of the major types of rollovers include:
- Trip-overs: when the driver loses control of the vehicle and it hits something while propelled sideways
- Fall-overs or untripped rollovers: when the driver turns too hard at high speed
- Bounce-overs: when the vehicle hits a stationary object like a guardrail and flips
- Collision: When the force from impact with another vehicle pushes a car over
As these rollover mechanisms imply, single-car rollovers account for about three-quarters of rollover fatalities.
Grave Injury Risk
Here are some of the more common types of injuries from rollovers:
- Head, neck and spinal injuries occur when the head collides with the roof or other interior surfaces, or when the roof is crushed.
- Chest injuries occur from hitting the steering wheel or other interior surfaces.
Partial and complete ejection from the rolling vehicle is the most common reason for fatalities and injury from rollovers, according to Safety Analysis and Forensic Engineering, L.L.C.
The SUV and Pickup Problem
IIHS reports further a significantly higher risk of rolling over for those in SUVs or pickups than in traditional automobiles. For example, over half of 2009 SUV occupant fatalities occurred in SUV rollovers and 47 percent of pickup occupant fatalities happened in rollovers, compared with only one-quarter of car occupant deaths in rollovers.
IIHS attributes the difference mainly to a "higher center of gravity," but rollovers are more likely on country roads where SUVs and pickups are more often driven, and pickup drivers tend to wear their seatbelts less frequently.
Wear Your Seat Belt
A simple safety step every driver and passenger can take is to buckle up. IIHS reports that in 2009, 66 percent of rollover fatalities were of unbelted occupants. Seatbelts help prevent being thrown from the vehicle, and ejection at high speed is extremely dangerous.
Electronic Stability Control
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has committed to reducing rollover accidents. A recent major step in that direction was the adoption of new federal regulations that require passenger vehicles to carry new technology called electronic stability control - known as ESC - by September 2012.
ESC is a complex onboard computerized system that monitors vehicle movement and steering to determine when the car is veering off the line of travel the driver intends. When ESC senses this disconnect, it applies braking as needed to bring the car back into compliance with the driver's intended route. This helps to stop certain skidding patterns and driver loss of steering control associated with rollover risk.
Safety equipment on a vehicle can make a huge difference in a rollover accident. For example, state-of-the-art restraint systems and side curtain airbags may protect the upper body from serious injury, keep it away from the roof and keep the body inside the vehicle.
Roof strength and finely engineered body structure can help prevent roof collapse. Federal safety standards for roofs were updated in 2009 and stronger roofs will be required on all passenger vehicles by the 2017 models.
Seek Legal Advice
If you or a loved one is hurt in a rollover accident, many things may have contributed to the situation. Be sure to talk to an experienced car accident attorney about what legal remedies may be available.