A moment of inattention can turn your comfortable family car into a steel-and-glass deathtrap. Nearly as fatal as a head-on collision, a rollover is not the type of accident from which people generally stroll away. Even if you survive, and happen to be among the tiny statistic with no injuries, the cost of repairs to your vehicle could be astronomical.
Preventing a rollover isn’t something you should think about only when you’re in imminent danger. Once you pass the point of no return, there’s little you can do but experience the nightmare. Effective prevention starts before you start the engine.
Choosing your vehicle
A lucrative business in SUV rollover lawsuits has sprung up in recent years. Does this set off warning bells in your mind? It should. SUVs roll over three times more often than standard passenger cars. SUV, trucks and minivans all have a high center of gravity, meaning that the heaviest part of the vehicle is farther away from the road than a car with low center of gravity. As surely as tall trees topple in the wind while short ones remain to sway another day, a high center of gravity is lethal to you and your passengers.
Choose a vehicle with a low center of gravity and a wide wheel base. Or, if you do find yourself writing a check for that SUV, ask about electronic stability control. Electronic stability control, or ESC, is a computerized technology that detects loss of steering control. If the vehicle is skidding, ESC measures the direction of the skid and applies brakes to each wheel asymmetrically. Like any other technology, this is not a replacement for good driving skills, so don’t get in the habit of relying on ESC.
Knowing your vehicle
How much weight do you expect your vehicle to carry? An overloaded vehicle flying around a corner or coming to an abrupt stop is unstable. Check your users’ manual for the recommended weight limit. Moreover, the way the weight is divided up affects your vehicle’s stability. Even if you’re within a safe weight, using your roof rack to carry heavy furniture could mean the difference between a fatal rollover and a manageable incident.
In addition to knowing the weight specifications, understanding the ins-and-outs of your particular braking system can help you handle your vehicle in the best way to avoid skidding, losing control or locking up your brakes. Since all these problems can result in rollovers, familiarity with your braking system could save your life.
Practicing safe habits
Once you’ve chosen your vehicle and familiarized yourself with the weight specifications and braking system, you can feel pretty confident about starting the engine. But don’t let that confidence lull you into a false sense of security. Know what kind of habits cause rollovers, and replace those bad habits with safe ones.
- Stay sober. More than half of fatal rollover crashes involve at least one drunk driver.
- Watch your speed. If you’re going over 55 miles per hour, the chances of rolling over drastically increase.
- Wear your seatbelt. Nearly all deaths during rollovers are due to the lack of a seatbelt.
- Take exit ramps and bends carefully. If you jerk the wheel or fly around a curve, one side of your vehicle could tip over.
Reacting to a rollover
Even if you’re the safest and most prepared driver in the world, you could still be faced with that terrifying situation: your vehicle starts to roll. How do you react? Although it may seem counterintuitive, turn the wheel in the same direction your vehicle is tilting. Stay calm and don’t make jerky movements or over-correct—you might end up tilting too far in the other direction. If all goes well, your vehicle will right itself. If your vehicle does roll over, hang on and wait for the vehicle to settle before trying to move.
Rollovers are scary and often fatal. With this in mind, take the time to choose your vehicle wisely, get to know its idiosyncrasies, and practice safe habits. Your life may depend on it