The taller a vehicle, the more likely it is to rollover. The American public was made painfully aware of this reality in the late 1990s when sport utility vehicles (SUVs) began to soar in popularity, subjecting major automakers like Ford to tens of millions of dollars in personal injury and wrongful death claims. Because SUVs had a higher center of gravity and thus were more affected by the centrifugal force of a turn, they were much more likely to rollover than traditional sedans.
The same phenomenon is responsible for large truck rollovers. In 2008, the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine undertook a study to analyze the causes of large truck rollover accidents. Below is an explanation of a few of the study’s findings.
Speeding is the most common cause of truck rollovers, being responsible for approximately 45% of all truck rollover accidents. What causes a truck to rollover from speed is not necessarily a problem of going too fast, but going too fast for the particular road conditions at the time of the accident. A speed-induced rollover occurs when the front wheels of the truck are turning faster than the cargo it is carrying. These types of rollovers are caused most often by truck drivers taking curves too fast, destabilizing their trailers by unevenly distributing their cargo load, and turning too sharply in an intersection.
Lack of Attention
While not as common as speeding, a lack of attention on the truck driver’s part can also contribute to a rollover. Lack of attention can be caused by a lack of sleep, either by falling asleep at the wheel or simply being drowsy and unaware of what is happening. It can also be caused by distraction, including passengers, cell phones, and radios.
Loss of Control
There are several reasons why a truck driver can lose control of his or her vehicle resulting in a rollover accident, including:
- Steering: Rollover accidents resulting from poor steering control are most often associated with lane changes and avoiding obstacles
- Overcorrection: Trucks can easily rollover when the driver overcorrects from an error, similar to rollovers that occur when taking curves at inappropriate speeds
- Maneuvering: Poor maneuvering is often a result of making improper split-second decisions, such as crashing into another vehicle when an alternative was available or making a last-second turn when it would have been safer to continue ahead