Rollover incidents occur far less frequently than other car accidents, but when they do take place, they are more deadly than other types of crashes. Although rollovers only accounted for 2.1 percent of all United States crashes in 2010, they were responsible for nearly 35 percent of deaths caused by passenger vehicle collisions. Legislators and lobbyists hope that the phase-in of new roof strength regulations will result in fewer roof crush fatalities, but unfortunately, it is unlikely that all vehicle manufacturers will abide by these stringent requirements.
Roof Crush and Vehicle Fatalities
Poor roof construction can greatly enhance the likelihood of serious injury or death in rollover accidents. Depending on the nature of the defect, passengers may be crushed by the roof or ejected through a space opened up during the rollover. A variety of injuries can result from roof crush, but injuries to the head, neck, and spine are most common. Most deaths in rollover accidents occur when passengers fail to wear seatbelts, but even those who take appropriate safety precautions may be vulnerable. Drivers and passengers are often unaware of the risks until it is too late.
Roof Crush and SUV Rollover
The risk of roof crush is substantial in all types of vehicle rollovers, but it is especially concerning in rollovers involving older sport utility vehicles. At one time, rollovers were far more likely for SUVs than they were for other types of vehicles. Today, thanks to stringent regulations, that has changed. A surprising report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) indicates that those driving cars manufactured in 2009 are twice as likely to die in rollover accidents as those driving 2009 SUVs. However, the risk of rollover-related death remains substantial for SUV drivers; statistics from IIHS posit that 59 percent of occupant deaths in SUV crashes are related to rollover, compared to just 25 percent of occupant deaths in car and minivan crashes.
Hardtop versus Pillared Cars
Hardtops are far less common today than they were in previous decades, but they are still featured on many classic cars and modern Jeeps. These pillarless hardtops are far more dangerous than the roofs on pillared cars. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), safety standard 216 (which focuses on roof crush resistance) has saved approximately 110 lives per year. This safety standard involves a redesign of hardtop vehicles, with the ultimate goal being stronger roof support.
Strength Standards for Light and Heavy Vehicles
In 2009, the Department of Transportation (DOT) strengthened vehicle roof strength requirements in an effort to reduce roof crush fatalities. This update requires light vehicles weighing up to 6,000 pounds to be able to withstand 1.5 times their weight. Additionally, the DOT’s 2009 update includes stringent requirements for heavier vehicles, which were previously not regulated. Under the DOT’s updated requirements, vehicles exceeding 6,000 pounds must withstand forces equal to 1.5 times their weight on both sides. In addition to these requirements, electronic stability control systems are now mandated.
Although the DOT’s new roof strength regulations were passed in 2009, the official phase-in of these standards did not begin until 2012. This phase-in is expected to be complete by 2017, at which point manufacturers with vehicles that cannot withstand the required amount of weight may be held liable.
Personal Injury and Roof Crush Accidents
Now that stringent regulations have been set for vehicle manufacturers, there is no excuse for rollovers to involve roof crush. When roof crush does occur, it is important for victims and their loved ones to hold responsible parties accountable. This is best accomplished through a swift lawsuit, which can also be used to obtain compensation for victims with rollover-related injuries. Our firm has a successful track record handling a wide array of vehicular personal injury cases, including those involving rollovers and roof crush. You may be eligible for compensation, so do not hesitate to get in touch.