It’s not an unusual sight along North Carolina highways: emergency vehicles gathered at an accident scene, and in the center, a vehicle upside down. On the news that evening, you hear the details of the latest roadside tragedy—two people evacuated to the hospital, one dead at the scene.
Rollover accidents are not especially common; however, when they do occur, they are always grave (and often fatal) incidents. Only about three percent of all motor vehicle crashes in North Carolina are rollover accidents. However, rollovers account for about one third of all fatal car accidents. From those two statistics, it’s easy to conclude that rollovers are rare but uniquely deadly events.
According to the watchdog group Consumers Union, rollover crashes are worth special attention because “the number of rollovers has increased, while the total number of highway fatalities has remained stable over the past decade.” It’s important to understand why we’re seeing North Carolina rollover accidents, and to craft a response that may reduce injuries.
The Physics of Rollover Accidents
Why are rollover crashes becoming increasingly common? To understand that, you need to appreciate why a rollover crash occurs. Most often, the trigger for a rollover is abrupt steering or a turn to one side while the vehicle is traveling at a high speed. The key element determining whether that combination will flip the vehicle is the stability of the vehicle, which is a relationship between its weight distribution and its “footprint,” or base—the area between its tires.
To simplify matters, a lower vehicle with its weight closer to the ground is more stable than a taller vehicle with a high center of gravity. As an analogy, consider a short can of tuna: it’s much harder to tip over than a taller can of soup, because center of gravity is much higher for the soup.
Sport utility vehicles, which were originally designed as a car-like shell over a light truck chassis, tend to have very high centers of gravity relative to their base. Much of the surge in rollover accidents can be explained by the increased popularity of SUVs over the last two decades.
When It’s Not the Driver’s Fault
Of course, it’s not only SUVs that flip on the highway. Under the right circumstances, any vehicle can have a rollover accident. For conventional automobiles, manufacturing defects can have a significant role in rollover accident fatalities. Defective tires, braking systems, or steering systems can cause a car to lose stability and throw it into a rollover. A defective roof design can crumple when the vehicle is turned upside down; a properly designed roof would resist that impact. When a vehicle or component is poorly designed or defective in its function, the manufacturer can be held liable for any injuries that result.
If you have been involved in a rollover accident through no fault of your own, you need to hold the person responsible to account. A consultation with a Wilmington car wreck lawyer from Speaks Law Firm can explain your legal rights to seek compensation for your injuries and other losses. Best of all, the first consultation is free and confidential. Call us today at (877) 593-4233 to make your appointment, and we’ll send you a FREE copy of The North Carolina Auto Injury Book as our way of introducing the firm.