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How Truck Rollovers Increase the Risk of Injury or Death

Speed, improper loading, and faulty components can all cause large semi-trucks to become unstable and topple over. A fully loaded semi-truck can weight 20-30 times as much as a standard passenger vehicle. Coupled with a higher center of gravity and greater momentum, this makes them prone to rollover accidents.

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In 2014, 300 truck drivers died in rollover accidents. This was nearly half of the 587 truck drivers who died in crashes that year. Further, of all truck drivers who died in 2014, 18% were involved in single-vehicle crashes. Overall, it is estimated that 77% of trucks involved in rollovers are involved in single-vehicle accidents. Nationally, it's estimated that of all combined truck related accidents, 9% will involve a semi-truck that has rolled over.

In an effort to better understand the dangers of truck rollovers, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration studied 239 rollover crashes in 2002. The study indicated that these accidents were caused by the following factors:

  • Improper Loading
  • Poor Brake Maintenance
  • Excessive Speed on Curves
  • Poor Road Surface Conditions
  • Over-steering and Driver Error
  • Tire Failure
  • Contact with Other Vehicles
  • Drowsy Driving

This same study determined that 56% of truck rollovers occurred on divided highways. These highways typically have higher speed limits, and higher speeds are most certainly a contributing factor to these crashes. Of all the accidents studied, only 32 rollovers were caused by the actions of other drivers on the road.

It was also determined that 42% occurred on two-way, non-divided roads. These are most common in cities and rural areas, and can often have sharp turns that can cause the vehicle's center of gravity to shift rapidly, thus increasing the possibility of a rollover.

The FMCSA estimates that speed is a contributing factor in 45% of all large-truck rollover crashes. For comparison, excessive speed is considered a contributing factor in roughly 23% of all large truck crashes combined.

Trucking accident lawyers know that several factors make large-truck rollovers considerably more dangerous than other types of accidents. The sheer weight of the vehicle, the distance of the driver from the ground, and the momentum of the trailer as it smashes into the crew cabin all play a part in increasing the likelihood of serious injury or death. These factors can crush drivers, trap them within the vehicle, or, if they are not restrained, propel them through the windshield and over great distances.

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