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Some recent truck rollover accidents in our area bring up an important vehicle safety issue about passenger trucks and large vehicles such as SUVs. Pickups are among the most dangerous type of vehicle based on fatality-rate data, in part because they have a high rollover risk due to their high center of gravity.

According to information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, rollovers are among the most severe types of traffic crashes and are particularly worrisome for occupants of trucks, minivans, SUVs and full-size vans. Nearly 10,000 occupants of passenger vehicles each year die in rollover crashes. And, while rollover accidents are relatively rare — they only occur in about 3 percent of crashes—they are deadly. A third of all vehicle occupants who lost their lives in accidents were in vehicles that rolled over. In terms of class of car, passenger cars have the lowest rollover fatality rate while SUVs have the highest. Speed is a major factor in rollover crash fatalities: about 40 percent of fatal rollover crashes involve speeding.

The vast majority — three-fourths — of fatal rollover crashes are single vehicle crashes. This unique crash statistics had lead some researchers to call for more investigation into the cause of these accidents and how they might be prevented in the future.

The use of seatbelts — or rather, the failure to use seatbelts — has been shown to be a major contributor to fatalities in rollover crashes. Passengers who are ejected from vehicles during a crash are much more likely to be killed, and in rollover crashes, occupants who were unrestrained were much more likely to be ejected from a rolling vehicle.

Vehicle safety for trucks and SUVs has come a long way since these larger vehicles first started to flood the market a couple of decades ago. And, technology to enhance vehicle stability and decrease the likelihood of rollover accidents has helped to improve their safety. But the recent accidents show that rollover crashes remain a serious issue, particularly for occupants of trucks and SUVs.

About the Editors: The Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.

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