Cars can roll over more easily than you might think.
In the time it takes to blink, a driver can be cruising the highway and then suddenly find his or her vehicle tumbling side-over-side.
According to SaferCar.gov, 33 percent of all passenger-vehicle fatalities are caused by rollovers.
You might read that and assume it won’t happen to you because you’re a safe driver, but let me tell you a quick story.
Earlier this week, on her way to work, my wife witnessed a rollover accident. The morning was cold and snowy, but the highway looked dry. As she merged onto the highway, she discovered it was covered in a thin, invisible layer of ice. A brand new SUV in front of her began to fishtail. The vehicle, moving at about 60 miles per hour, slid onto the soft shoulder, which sent it into an airborne flip. The SUV landed on its roof, crushing it, then rolled at least four times before coming to rest upside down.
It all happened within a matter of seconds.
That could have been my wife. Or your wife. Or you. Rollover accidents are especially scary, but there are ways to minimize your risk.
1. Don’t overcorrect
Most rollover accidents happen when a driver overreacts after one of their tires goes off the edge of the pavement. If that happens, the gut reaction is to yank the steering wheel back toward the road. But doing that can send the car into a rollover. Instead, slow the car down and steer back onto the road when you’re moving at a more manageable speed.
2. Slow down
If the weather is anything less than ideal, err toward safety and drop your speed until you’re confident that highway speeds are safe. Most rollovers are speed-related.
3. Keep tires properly inflated
That’s probably the most basic, common-sense advice there is about car safety, but it’s no less imperative for being so. Improperly inflated tires don’t grip the road as well and inhibit your ability to keep control of your car.
4. Be extra cautious in rural areas
Almost 75 percent of rollovers happen on rural roads. Watch your speed, keep your eyes on the road, and look out for possible obstacles ahead.
5. Buy a safer car
Most modern vehicles have electronic stability control, which can help avoid rollovers. Don’t buy a car without it. Also, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety conducts roof strength tests on newer cars. Vehicles with ratings of 4 and above are labeled Good and will keep the roof from collapsing more than 5 inches when a force of four times the vehicle’s weight is applied. That sounds pretty technical, but it could mean the difference between walking away from a rollover and being crushed inside the cabin.
You can look up the results of most cars on the IIHS website, which I highly recommend before making a purchase, especially with used cars. New-car shoppers should look through the list of 2016’s Top Safety Picks before making a decision.
How important to you are safety ratings when shopping for a vehicle?