ST. GEORGE — A video recently posted by the Nevada Highway Patrol serves as a reminder of the catastrophic consequences that can follow when an unrestrained driver is thrown from a car during a rollover – one of the deadliest types of crashes.
Rollover crashes are more likely to result in fatalities than other types of crash, and every year, these violent crashes play a major role in the 42,000 lives lost across the country.
Although rollovers only occur in approximately 3% of all serious crashes, they account for about 30% of people killed while riding in a passenger vehicle, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The video posted by the Nevada Highway Patrol captured a rollover crash the took place Tuesday shortly after 1:30 p.m. on Interstate 80 in Washoe County, Nevada.
A portion of that video can be viewed at the top of this report.
The trooper’s body camera captured the crash just seconds after the vehicle went off the freeway, where it rolled multiple times – ejecting the driver as it did so. The post also stated that 22% of all traffic fatalities reported in Nevada involve occupants who are not properly restrained.
While the occupant in Tuesday’s crash survived after being completely ejected during the crash, troopers all too often do not see an ejected driver survive.
“Please wear your seatbelt correctly every time,” the agency wrote in the post.
In Utah, more occupants are killed each year in single-vehicle-angle crashes, which includes rollovers, and rank as “one of the most deadly types of crashes, according to the Utah Department of Public Safety’s 2020 Crash Report.
The report also revealed that rollovers are more likely to result in fatalities than other types of crashes, and three-quarters of those killed in a rollover were unrestrained.
Speed is also a major contributor to these types of incidents, with most crashes occurring on roads where the posted speed limit is 55 mph or greater.
Seat belt use is the most important element when it comes to surviving a rollover crash, the report states.
Not only does the device keep occupants in their seats and prevent them from being tossed around, it also keeps them inside of the vehicle – which is a critical factor in surviving this type of crash.
In fact, more than half of all fatalities that occur in rollover crashes involve an occupant who is either partially or completely ejected, and while some believe it is good to be “thrown clear,” the truth is that nearly three-quarters of those ejected from the vehicle are killed.
According to GSU’s HyperPhysics Project, a 150 pound person wearing a seat belt and traveling at 60 mph experiences 2.4 tons of force acting on the human body – that is if the person is properly restrained at the point of impact.
If the occupant is not wearing a seat belt, however, the amount of force they can be subjected to spikes dramatically – to a G-force of more than 150 – which is more than 12 tons of force acting on the human body.
Rollovers, taller vehicles and physics
Today, rollover-avoidance technologies, better vehicle design and enhanced safety systems have enhanced the survival rate significantly, but under the right set of conditions, any vehicle can roll.
Extensive research has shown that taller, narrower vehicles such as SUVs, pickups and vans are more susceptible to rolling over than traditional passenger cars are because they have a higher center of gravity, which also makes them more top-heavy.
This is an important element when sideways forces are at work, such as when a vehicle rounds a curve, which shifts the center of gravity to one side and can cause a dramatic imbalance upon the vehicle.
These lateral forces also increase with speed and with a rapid change of direction – such as when a driver makes too sharp of a turn or overcorrects the other way – behaviors that can create the “pendulum effect” with larger and larger swings that lead to an ultimate loss of control.
Car manufacturers have zeroed in on SUV’s in terms of developing greater safety improvements, and their efforts appear to be working.
According to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, the rollover driver-death rate among newer passenger vehicles – three years old or newer, dropped from 27 in 2000 to six in 2012. Moreover, the newest SUVs have lower rates than the newest passenger cars.
Spike in crash numbers in 2020
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, traffic deaths in 2020 jumped more than 7%, with 38,680 occupants killed compared to the 36,100 deaths the year before.
While that may not appear to be a very significant spike, the number of vehicle miles traveled dropped by more than 13%, from from 3.2 billion in 2019 to 2.830 billion as stay-at-home orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic were in effect. The increase in fatalities was likely caused by faster driving.
The agency also says that 2020 saw a spike in the number of alcohol-related crashes.
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