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All Vehicles Are at Risk for Rolling Over in Traffic Accidents

Last week, my colleague Rick Shapiro took note of an accident on I-64 in Hampton, Virginia (VA), in which a pickup truck rolled over. Thankfully, no one was injured in that accident, but it called attention to the potential of serious injuries or deaths from rollover accidents because of weak pickup truck roofs.

The accident also focuses attention on the potential for all cars, pickups, SUVs, passenger vans, and even tractor trailers and emergency vehicles to tip or flip given the right -- which is to say "wrong" -- conditions. Federal regulators have pushed consistently over the past four decades to improve vehicle stability. Still, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, more than 10,000 Americans die each year when the car or truck they are driving or riding in rolls over.

The NHTSA notes repeatedly on its Web site that the overwhelming majority of fatal rollover accidents involve only the flipped or tipped vehicle. This indicates that distracted, drunk or reckless driving lies at the root of most such accidents. At the same time, car and truck makers have an obligation to make vehicles that maintain their stability as well as possible in all circumstances.

Vehicles continue to be at risk for rolling over, however. The PBS show Frontline combed through the NTSB Web site and compiled these tips for drivers on how to avoid rollover accidents:

  • Do not speed, drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or drive when excessively drowsy.
  • Do not steer in a panicked manner when one or more wheels leave the road. For instance, if a front tire slips over a shoulder, slow down gradually and gently ease your vehicle back on to the road.
  • Keep your tires properly inflated and replace worn and damaged tires. Flat tires make vehicles more prone to rolling over.
  • Load vehicles properly. Carrying uneven or highly stacked loads makes vehicles harder to control when going around curves.

EJL
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