SUV Rollover Statistics from the NHTSA

Roof intrusion injury as well as contact with a fixed roof are the most prevalent factors in rollovers. The NHTSA has compiled crash data with its National Automotive Sampling System from 1995-1999. This data shows that rollovers are the most dangerous type of collision for light duty automobiles as measured by the ratio of serious injury and fatal collisions to the number of passengers involved crashes where the vehicle is towed away.

Every year, roughly 250,000 vehicles involved in rollover collisions are left inoperable. Of these collisions, almost 80% involve one car. Of these one car rollovers, 90% occur after the vehicle leaves the roadway. In 1999, more than 10,000 passengers were killed in light vehicle rollover collisions. This is an extraordinarily high percentage of all rollover crashes. Of this 10,000, nearly 8,500 were killed in single vehicle rollover crashes. Since vehicle rollover collisions often occur in constructions zones when there is uneven pavement which can cause a vehicle to lose control. Eighty percent rollover fatalities were not wearing a seat belt and many of these fatalities occur when the driver is wholly or partially ejected. When looking at rollover crashes among passenger cars contrasted with pickup trucks, there is a much higher percentage of fatalities among drivers of pickup trucks, vans and SUVs. It is believed that the higher proportion of fatalities in these vehicle types is due to the higher center of gravity as contrasted with passenger cars.

Statistics also show that more than 25,000 drivers and passengers sustain serious or fatal injury following rollover collisions. Of these, more than half are ejected. For those who remain in the vehicle after a rollover, over 90% are injured when the roof of the vehicle is crushed in and more than half of these passengers have their seat belts on showing that when there is roof crush or intrusions, a seatbelt is not always going to help prevent injury (though it may lessen injury).

Following a rollover collision, roof contact and the severity injury is largely influenced by seatbelt usage. Ninety percent of occupants who were not wearing a seat belt were most severely injured from ejection. This tells automobile makers and drivers that the ability to prevent ejection is a key factor in reducing the likelihood of injury to passengers who do not wear a seatbelt. Roof crush intrusion is noted in the majority of all rollover cases yet is only the main cause of injury in fewer than 10 percent of all unbelted rollover cases.

To summarize, unbelted passengers in rollover collisions are mainly injured by ejection from the vehicle, which is fatal in about half the cases. Belted occupants in rollover crashes are primarily injured by roof contact and by contacts with other components within the vehicle’s interior. Roof contact for belted occupants in rollover crashes is usually non-fatal, but the severity of the injury is only directly related to the level of roof intrusion in severe cases of intrusion. In less severe cases, the severity of injury is related to other vehicle and occupant factors. A discussion of the relationship between these factors and injury severity is presented in the following section.

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