In 2004, a total of 10,553 people died in rollover crashes, an almost 10 percent increase from 2003. Rollover crashes represent 3 percent of all collisions and yet account for 31 percent of occupant fatalities. Rollovers are among the most dangerous types of vehicle crashes because of the high incidence of occupant ejection and head injuries.
Many factors contribute to the occurrence of rollover crashes. Rollover correlates closely with vehicle type, unsafe and reckless driving behaviors such as severe steering maneuvers, poor road design, and tire failure. Certain categories of vehicles, such as sport utility vehicles and small pickup trucks, are more prone to rollover than other classes of vehicles.
At present, the federal government has not established any performance standards to require improved vehicle stability to reduce the incidence of rollovers. In addition, current vehicle crash protection requirements do not adequately protect against the types of serious injuries most often associated with rollover crashes.
ROLLOVER CRASH FACTS
8,565 passenger vehicles were involved in fatal rollover crashes in 2004. Eighty-four percent of these crashes were single-vehicle crashes. (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, 2005)
In 2001, more than half (54 percent) of all single-vehicle crash deaths occurred as a result of rollover crashes, while only 10 percent of deaths in multiple-vehicle crashes were due to rollover. (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or IIHS)
In 2002, 8,768 of the 10,666 occupant deaths from rollover crashes occurred in single-vehicle rollover crashes. (NHTSA)
Rollover crashes are more likely to result in fatalities than other types of crashes. The high fatality and injury rates are due, in part, to the high percentage of rollover crashes in which passengers are ejected from their vehicles. Ejections account for 62 percent of all fatalities in rollover crashes and often result in costly and debilitating head injuries. (NHTSA)
Vehicle rollover crashes are especially serious because they so often result in head injuries. Head trauma is the most frequent type of fatal and nonfatal injury in rollovers. (NHTSA)
The rate of serious injury in passenger vehicle rollover crashes is 36 percent higher than in crashes where there is no rollover. (NHTSA)
SPORT UTILITY VEHICLES (SUVs):
Rollover crashes are the leading cause of fatalities in SUVs, whereas frontal collisions are the leading cause of death for passenger cars. SUVs are more prone to rollover than other vehicle types. This is due to their higher ground clearance and narrow width, which tend to make these vehicles top?heavy and more likely to roll over in crashes. (NHTSA)
In single vehicle crashes, 79 percent of the fatalities among SUV occupants involve rollover. Single-vehicle rollover crashes produced more than 50 percent of all occupant deaths in SUVs compared to 34 percent in pickup trucks and 19 percent in cars. (IIHS)
Lighter SUVs are disproportionately involved in fatal rollover crashes, with a rate that is more than 6 times as high as that in the largest cars. (IIHS)
For heavier SUVs, those weighing more than 5,000 pounds, nearly 4 out of every 5 occupant crash deaths (78 percent) occur in single-vehicle rollovers. (NHTSA)
In 2004, 62 percent of all SUVs involved in fatal crashes experienced a rollover. The second most rollover prone vehicles were pickup trucks (25 percent), followed by vans (19 percent) and, finally, passenger cars (16 percent). (NHTSA, 2005)
A disproportionately high level of rollover related fatalities characterizes SUV crashes - the SUV is the only vehicle type in which the number of occupant deaths in rollovers exceeds the number of occupant deaths in non-rollover crashes. In 2002, almost two-thirds of occupant fatalities in SUV crashes occurred in rollovers. (NHTSA)
A Louis Harris public opinion poll commissioned by Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) in 2001 found that by a 71 percent to 28 percent majority, the public is concerned about the danger of SUVs and that 85 percent support a federal rollover standard.
Light trucks and vans (LTVs) account for slightly over 50 percent of new vehicle sales, and SUVs alone comprise 19 percent of new LTVs. (Insurance Information Institute)
ROLLOVER SAFETY STANDARD AND CRASH PROTECTION FACTS
A 1996 Louis Harris public opinion poll commissioned by Advocates found that 52 percent of those surveyed felt it was "very important" that the federal government set strict safety standards for sport utility vehicles, and 75 percent of respondents would be willing to pay $200 to $300 more for added safety features that would prevent rollover.
Consumer information, such as labeling and a rollover rating system, is important, but information alone is not sufficient to address a safety problem as serious as vehicle rollover. Improving roadway design and driver behavior should be part of a larger effort to reduce rollover crashes, but the only certain way to significantly decrease the incidence of rollovers is to require basic rollover stability standards for every class of vehicle.
Within each class of vehicles, some models are less prone to rollover than others. The Department of Transportation could set standards for improved rollover stability that would greatly decrease rollovers without calling for radical redesign of classes of vehicles or imposing excessive burdens on automobile manufacturers.
Current vehicle crash protection requirements fail to protect adequately against injuries likely to result from rollover crashes. Roof crush requirements must be strong enough to protect against head and neck injuries, and improvements in other structural components are needed to reduce injury severity.