Three women were traveling outside of Corpus Christi on Highway 44 when their lives were changed forever. The party’s driver fell asleep at the wheel, causing her to lose control of the vehicle. While attempting to correct her driving error, the vehicle rolled over and ejected passengers Rose Elia Chacon and Maria Del Socorro Pena. The driver was taken to the hospital with life-threatening injuries, while the two passengers were pronounced dead at the scene.
Because rollovers are not as common as other car accidents, many drivers are unaware of just how dangerous they can be. While rollovers reportedly only compose 2.1% of all passenger vehicle accidents, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates they account for 35% of all passenger vehicle crash deaths.
Causes of Rollover Accidents
Rollovers can occur in any vehicle, given the right set of circumstances. Some vehicles have a higher probability of a rollover than others due to their design, including:
- Sport utility vehicles (SUVs)
- Passenger pickup trucks
- Semi-trucks or 18-wheelers
- Commercial vans
- Passenger vans
By design these vehicles tend to be larger, taller, and/or narrower than others on the road. This creates a higher center of gravity, causing them to become “top heavy.” When an accident occurs, sideway forces cause an imbalance in these vehicles’ center of gravity, beginning the rollover process.
The majority of fatal rollovers are connected to speeding, and 40% involved excessive speeding – driving more than 15 miles per hour over the posted speed limit. Additionally, 75% of rollover accidents occurred on roadways with speed limits of 55 miles per hour or higher. When a driver speeds, he or she has less time and less physical distance to stop their vehicle from coming into contact with road barriers, debris, or other cars.
NHTSA estimates almost half of all rollover accidents involve alcohol. Alcohol, even just one drink, can alter one’s ability to control their vehicle and exercise proper judgment.
Around 85% of all rollover-related fatalities occurred as the result of single vehicle accidents, meaning that no other vehicles were responsible for the rollover. This calls attention to outside forces that play a major role in keeping drivers safe. Outside forces can include defects in a vehicle’s design, roadway debris, and mismarked or unmarked roads and exits. In fact, NHSTA reports vehicle trips are the leading cause of rollovers.
What are Vehicle Trips?
A multi-vehicle accident isn’t required for a vehicle to experience a rollover. NHSTA estimates 95% of all rollover accidents result from a vehicle trip. A vehicle trip occurs when a vehicle exits the roadway and either slides sideways, digging its tires into soft soil, or strikes an object. Examples include:
- Vehicle striking a pothole
- Uneven pavement/gravel on road
- Vehicle swerves into a curb or roadside shoulder
Typically, when a consumer purchases a vehicle, they expect it’s equipped to handle common roadway features such as loose gravel. As part of standard preproduction safety testing on vehicle models, manufacturers should account for the possibility that a driver may have to avoid debris or other hazards on the road. A driver attempting to avoid a dangerous situation should not have to worry whether or not the design or manufacturing process of their vehicle will harm them.
Houston Rollover Accident Attorneys
Rollovers are complex accidents that cause life-altering injuries and wrongful death. If you or a loved one was involved in a rollover accident, you need the assistance of an experienced automotive products liability attorney to ensure you receive proper compensation. To schedule a free case evaluation with one of our lawyers, please contact us today.