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Pickup truck and SUV rollovers: Causes and prevention strategies

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Pickup truck and sport utility vehicle (SUV) owners know full well the risks of the open road. 4×4 truck versatility, utility, and practicality have little influence over the risks of piloting one of these lumbering slabs of automotive engineering.

Unlike passenger cars, trucks, and SUVs are more susceptible to rollovers, which oftentimes result in severe injuries and even fatalities. NHTSA data shows pickup trucks and SUVs were responsible for nearly 56% of rollovers in vehicles produced in the model year 2000 and later. This makes both modes of transportation a serious safety concern.

But rollovers and road incidents are a complex affair. Many different factors play into why rollovers occur, including speed, weight distribution, and road conditions.

Understanding the risks associated with rollovers and adopting adequate safe driving practices and prevention strategies will help make the road a safer place for everyone. And here’s how…

Causes of rollovers

Unlike passenger cars, pickup trucks and SUVs are more susceptible to rollovers because they have a high center of gravity. Sitting higher off the ground, with larger wheels and tires underneath that are intended to handle rough terrain, makes for a risky situation. When these vehicles round a curve, the center of gravity shifts to one side, drastically changing the balance of the automobile. If the driver of a pickup truck or SUV takes a turn too quickly or makes a sudden evasive maneuver, the top-heavy vehicle can lose traction and land on its side.

Pickup trucks and SUVs are not only designed to handle rough terrain, but also carry heavy loads such as construction materials, equipment, or that last run from the local hardware store. However, exceeding the recommended weight limit can exacerbate the effects of that higher center of gravity and make the vehicle unstable. This is another factor that contributes to rollovers. For when cargo weight is not properly distributed, the vehicle’s center of gravity is imbalanced, thus making it more difficult to keep things in control.

If the driver makes a sharp turn while at higher speeds, and then quickly overcorrects the other way, a pendulum effect is created. The result? A vehicle swaying back and forth with larger and larger swings. This almost always results in a rollover, especially if the driver is unable to quickly regain control of the vehicle.

Prevention strategies for rollovers

The last thing anybody wants is to be in an automotive collision or roadside incident of some sort. Therefore, safety should always be the first priority when on the road. To avoid a car crash, there are several steps you can take to prevent the risk of a rollover.

Proper maintenance

Proper maintenance of pickup trucks and SUVs is critical in preventing rollovers.

Drivers should do the following:

1. Maintain proper tire pressure: Proper tire pressure is essential for stability and traction. Drivers should check their tire pressure at least once a month before going on long trips.

2. Check the suspension system: The suspension system helps absorb shock and maintain the stability of the vehicle. Suspension systems should be inspected by a qualified mechanic annually or every 6 months if used as a heavy-workload vehicle.

3. Keep the vehicle balanced: Uneven weight distribution can cause a truck or SUV to suddenly become unstable and tip over. Loads should always be evenly distributed and secured properly.

4. Check the brakes: Brakes are critical for stopping any vehicle and maintaining control. Brakes inspections should be an annual affair, especially when routine towing or heavy loads are in effect.

5. Ensure proper wheel alignment: Proper wheel alignment helps to maintain stability and prevent rollovers, so if the vehicle starts to pull to one side get that checked immediately.

6. Regularly service the vehicle: You never know what might be going on behind the scenes, so make overall service checks a routine during every oil change.

7. Choose appropriate tires: The right tires and tire size will increase grip and help prevent rollovers. Truck and SUV drivers should choose tires that are appropriate for the driving conditions and load capacities their vehicles will encounter.

Load distribution

Proper load distribution is arguably one of the most important factors in preventing rollovers. According to Panish Shea Boyle Ravipudi, improperly loaded cargo can lead to an imbalanced truck and a rollover accident. Drivers should distribute the load evenly, with the heaviest items being arranged toward the bottom of the load, closest to the cab, and centered over the rear axle to maintain stability.

The load should also be secured properly to prevent it from shifting during transportation, as loose items can cause instability and contribute to rollovers. Adding additional ratchet tie-down straps to your truck or SUV can help keep items in place and reduce the chances of shifting.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, is to ensure that you are not overloading your vehicle. Exceeding the maximum weight capacity can cause any truck or SUV to become unstable and tip over. With proper maintenance and by following these guidelines, drivers can ensure that their pickup truck or SUV is properly loaded and thus reduce the risk of rollovers.

Safe driving habits

To further reduce the risk of car crashes and rollovers, drivers should implement and develop safe driving habits to keep themselves and others safe on the road. Safe driving habits are essential, especially for those operating larger vehicles like pickup trucks and SUVs. To reduce the risk of injury or fatality, drivers should always wear their seatbelts and make sure that all passengers within the vehicle do the same. This should be the first thing you do before even turning on the vehicle.

Drivers should also maintain a safe speed depending on the conditions and should never go above the posted limit. Remember, it’s there for a reason.

It’s also important to keep a safe distance from other vehicles and use the 3-second rule: leaving three seconds of stopping distance space between your front bumper and the vehicle in front of you. This is especially true when driving on winding roads or in adverse weather conditions since rollover risk is higher in these environments.

Another crucial tip that can help reduce the risk of rollover, is to avoid making sudden maneuvers or sharp turns. General safe driving practices, including being attentive and cautious, can significantly reduce the risk of rollover accidents for pickup truck and SUV drivers.

Taking next steps

Overall, pickup truck and SUV rollovers can have devastating consequences, but many of these incidents can be prevented by understanding the causes and by following safe prevention strategies. In the unfortunate event that a rollover does occur, it’s essential to contact a pickup truck accident lawyer who has experience in handling such cases.

They can help you determine liability and ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve for any injuries or damages sustained. Taking action and seeking legal advice can also help you move forward and begin the process of recovery after a rollover. Remember, safety is the top priority when operating a truck or SUV, and following these prevention strategies can significantly reduce the risk of a rollover.

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