Everything You Need to Know About Rollover Accidents

Rollover accidents can lead to severe injuries and extensive vehicle damage, but driving slowly and staying aware of your environment can help prevent them.
Written by Joshua Levy
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
Updated on Jan 20, 2023
Rollover accidents are one of the most dangerous types of car accidents. Even though they only make up about 3% of vehicle incidents, they’re responsible for nearly 35% of all highway accident fatalities. Luckily, they’re easy to avoid.
Most rollover accidents occur in vehicles with a high center of gravity, such as pickup trucks and SUVs. But many of the worst injuries in rollover accidents occur as a result of occupants refusing to wear their seat belts. Following
safe driving tips
while you’re on the road can go a long way in keeping you and your passengers safe and sound.
Accidents can be scary and hard to predict. That’s why the
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has compiled everything you need to know about rollover accidents, from what they are and how they happen to what you should do if you’re ever in one.
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What causes rollover accidents?

Rollover accidents are when cars flip over in an accident. They often result in severe injuries for passengers and irreparable damage to the car. While these sorts of accidents can typically be avoided, they often happen as the result of user error, environmental factors, or car design. 

User error

While rollover accidents are sometimes inevitable, they can usually be avoided. Taking steps to stay careful and alert on the road can go a long way in preventing severe accidents and the injuries that follow. 
Here are some of the most common user errors that lead to rollovers:
  • Distracted driving
  • Oversteering
  • Drowsiness 
  • Aggressive driving
  • Speeding

Environmental factors

Sometimes, events outside our control make accidents more challenging to avoid. But the damage from those situations can still be mitigated by taking safety precautions like wearing a seatbelt or having your airbags checked regularly
Here are a few environmental factors to look out for if you’re hoping to avoid a rollover accident:
  • Bad weather
  • Poorly constructed roads
  • Steep geography

Car design

Every car is unique in one way or another, which is why some car designs are more likely to roll over than others. Luckily, you can avoid those cars by keeping an eye out for characteristics that make rollovers possible. 
Here are a few design features that make it easier for your car to roll over:
  • High center of gravity: When a car is heaviest on top, a slight shift in weight could force it to tip. Big SUVs and trucks that hold their weight higher up are typically a higher rollover risk.
  • Narrow track widths: The further apart your wheels are, the more solid of a base you have. When tires get too close to one another, your car is at risk of flipping.
  • Too much traction: If you’ve ever driven down a steep slope, you know how important traction can be. But your tires should have a little give. Staying at a standstill in an unfavorable position could mean your car has no other choice but to flip.

Common outcomes of rollover accidents

Rollover accidents can cause severe damage to both passengers and vehicles. In large part, the damage to both passengers and their cars is because most car roofs aren’t equipped to handle the entire vehicle’s weight. 
Here are some of the most severe injuries victims of a rollover accident can reasonably expect:
  • Broken bones
  • Head injuries
  • Internal injuries
  • Spinal and brain injuries
  • Back injuries
Of course, your car won’t get off scot-free either. If your car does roll over, you’ll probably be left with a huge assortment of issues ranging from broken windows and dents to bent frames and a cracked engine block.

What to do if you’re in a rollover accident

Rollover accidents are extremely dangerous, but not every incident needs to be fatal. Taking steps to stay calm and act responsibly in a rollover accident could help you mitigate injuries and stay as safe as possible. 
Here are a few steps you can take to stay safe in a rollover accident:
  • Prepare for impact: If you think you’re about to roll over, remove your feet from the pedals, cross your arms over your chest, and push yourself back into the seat. This position should minimize the possibility of broken ankles, arms, and ribs since the airbag should secure you in place.
  • Check yourself and call 911: Before leaving the car or moving around, take a deep breath and examine yourself. Take note of any injuries you might have and move with caution. Maneuvering yourself in a small space right after an accident could exacerbate your injuries. Call 911 as emergency responders can help you safely leave the vehicle if you’re stuck or injured.
  • Turn off the car: Leaving the engine running in the wrong position could lead to major issues, including continued movement or fires.
  • Leave the vehicle: If you’re upside down, use an arm to support yourself while you lower yourself to the roof of the car. If you can open a door, use it to leave the vehicle. But if the frames have been bent, you may need to break a window to crawl through.
  • Move to safe space: In severe accidents, many injuries occur when drivers leave their car, only to enter dangerous spaces with oncoming traffic or steep slopes. Navigate to a safe area as soon as you exit the vehicle.

How to avoid rollover accidents

Rollover accidents are always dangerous, but many severe injuries happen when people fail to act responsibly. Remembering to wear your seatbelt and sit in the correct position are two simple ways to help you avoid injury in a rollover accident.
Of course, the best way to avoid injuries is to avoid the accident altogether. Here are a few tips to avoid rolling over on the road:
  • Drive at the speed limit: Speeding is a leading cause of rollover accidents, especially on uneven terrain. If you’re moving too quickly and you shift sideways, your car may not be able to handle the momentum.
  • Check your vehicle's safety rating: Some cars are built safer than others, so it’s important to know what you’re buying before you drive it home. Top-heavy cars with narrow track widths flip over much more easily than bottom-heavy cars with wide track widths.
  • Never drive under the influence: Rollover accidents typically occur when the driver loses control. Driving while intoxicated significantly raises the likelihood you’ll be in an accident and can even lead to rollovers in some situations.
  • Move slower on unfamiliar terrain: One of the easiest ways to avoid rollover accidents is to slow down and stay aware of your surroundings. Some roads don’t always get the care they deserve, and driving in new areas can be a little tricky. Try moving at a comfortable pace and taking extra care when you don’t know the area.

Insuring yourself against rollover accidents

Rollover injuries could leave you with severe injuries and enormous bills for car repairs and medical expenses. That said, it’s best to make sure you have the car insurance coverage you need to cover the costs. Coverages like
personal injury protection (PIP)
collision coverage
can ensure you’re covered in a worst-case scenario.
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