auto accident

Photo courtesy of Komo News

Multi-car Auto Accident Leaves Man Upside Down

A 61-year-old passenger, traveling in a minivan that rolled over in multiple car pile-ups, defied the odds in Seattle on Wednesday. First responders flew to the crash site at the 4000 block of East Marginal Way South at 1:45PM.  Firefighters were able to free him after the 5-vehicle collision in the SoDo area of downtown Seattle. Emergency responders took the man to Harborview Medical Center. The hospital listed him in stable condition.

Streets were blocked, causing major backups in the area. Investigators are still piecing together the circumstances that led up to the crash.

Defying the Odds

Rollover auto accidents occur in only 1 percent of crashes. While only 1 percent, these kinds of auto accidents account for about one-third of all passenger vehicle occupant deaths. In 2015, there were 22,543 passenger vehicle fatalities in the United States. Out of those fatalities, just over 7,200 of those people died when the vehicle they were in rolled over.

Most rollovers occur when a driver loses control of their vehicle. When a person trips, they often will fall. When a vehicle “trips,” caused generally by a sideways slide, in essence, their “fall” is a rollover. The object that triggers the trip could have been as little as a sidewalk, guardrail, or even a curb. The driver causes a sideways slide by trying to aggressively over-correct the blunder, at a high velocity or turning radius. The frictional force between the tires and the road cause the vehicle to tip and roll. A striking vehicle may also push over a vehicle that it strikes in the side in a multi-vehicle crash. These types of rollovers happen less often but are still possible.

Vehicles that have a higher physical profile, like SUVs and pick-ups, tend to roll easier than lower passenger vehicles. Minivans also have a higher center of gravity, also making them more prone to roll than a lower-profile vehicle.

Improving the Odds in the Event of a Rollover

With a perceptive from the safety functionality of a vehicle, car manufacturers and engineers have helped reduce the chances of fatalities in all vehicle crashes simply by their design and improved stabilizing safety features. Vehicles with stronger roofs and frames increase the survivability of passengers in rollover crashes. Stronger structures prevent intrusion into the cab, maintaining the spacial integrity, if the passengers are also securely buckled in as well.

The static stability factor (SSF) is the geometrical ability to resist a rollover, and has been in the forefront of determining a vehicle’s measurements and dynamic effects, in the design process. For example, the typical Sport Utility Vehicles’ design and safety features have improved by notable margins between 1998 and 2003, and have been constant in increasing their safety performances onward.

The electronic stability control (ESC), in newer models of vehicles, has also helped prevent sideways skidding and loss of control in late-model vehicles. This safety mechanism alone has increased safety ratings across the industry and is now required and installed in all vehicles 2012 and newer.

Buckle Up!

But the most important safety feature of any vehicle is the built-in safety restraint system, otherwise known as seat belts! They are the most effective way to reduce the risk of injury and death in a rollover crash. In the review of the annual number of rollover fatalities, 65% of people that died in passenger rollover crashes were unbelted. Seat belts also prevent passengers from being ejected from the vehicle on impact and reduces the severity of injuries, when properly used.

Airbags, front and side, also help buffer against more traumatic head and spinal injuries. Newer vehicle’s safety systems coupled with seat belt use enhance a passenger’s likelihood of surviving a rollover ordeal.

Good design and structural components in conjunction with a strong safety belt system help keep the passengers tethered to their seats and as far away from the roof as possible if a rollover crash were to occur.

Rollovers Still Occur Despite Safety Features

Despite safety features and mechanisms, there is always the human factor to consider. In the right circumstances, any vehicle can roll over. Sideways and lateral forces can lift vehicles with enough speed and shifting curve to offset the balance in the tires. Excessive speed enables this kind of action, but is not the only factor in causing a rollover collision.

Human Error

Driver error is responsible for over 75% of all rollovers. Rollovers are usually the result of another problematic driving error. It may have been speeding, miscalculation of distance, inattention and over-correction, or even driver fatigue. Simply hitting soft ground or a curb can cause a vehicle to flip, so the need for conscientious and attentive driving is vital for the safety and well-being of every vehicle on the road.

Vehicle maintenance is also important in preventing incidents on the road. A recent study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration found that 54% of vehicles involved in rollover accidents had a defect in their braking system of some sort.

A Preventable Problem

Common sense and adhering to the rules of the road are some of the most responsible and easiest ways to prevent crashes, especially rollover crashes, from occurring. Since the large percentage of rollover crashes are due to driver error, that would make them preventable. Here are a few ways to ensure you get where you’re going safely:

  1. Slow Down. Speed limits are for a reason–and that includes slowing down for bends and corners.
  2. Stay alert. Falling asleep at the wheel is never an acceptable driving error. You need to be well-rested if you’re going to drive for any length of time. It’s better to pull over for a “cat” nap for a few minutes then risking nodding off while driving.
  3. Put down the phone! It’s illegal in Washington state to even hold your phone while driving. It’s not worth the risk to personal safety, the costly EDUI, or the possibility of wrecking your vehicle–not to mention taking a life.
  4. Make sure your vehicle is mechanically sound before hitting the road. Brakes and tires are issues that are easy to troubleshoot. Don’t neglect them for long, or they could be the cause of something even worse than replacing them to begin with.
  5. Understand the design and performance style of your vehicle. Lower vehicles are less likely to “trip,” while vehicles, like SUV’s and trucks, have a higher level of gravity to work around.  Load and transport properly with you type of vehicle. When in question, review the owner’s manual for towing, weight distribution, and additional safety features. 

Our Personal Injury & Auto Accident Lawyers are Here to Help

Not only can rollover crashes be devastating for those involved, they can leave families in a state of shock. Seeking legal counsel may not occur to those who sustained a personal injury at no fault of their own.

If you or a loved one has been in a rollover collision in Washington or Idaho, contact Fielding Law Group today for a free consultation on how our accident attorneys can help you get financial recovery for your physical, mental, and property damages. By working one-on-one with our clients, we are able to offer the best legal representation throughout the entire resolution process, in order to settle all personal injury claims. Our unparalleled abilities mean that you can concentrate on healing, while we make sure you get the compensation you deserve. Remember-Don’t let an accident wreck YOU!