With the increased number of Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) on the road, Georgia has seen a steady increase in the number of “rollover” accidents.  While rollovers are still relatively rare, they are much more likely to cause serious injury or death when they do occur.  Rollovers currently account for about one of every forty reported crashes, but they account for one of every three fatalities on the road.

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), the vast majority of rollovers actually occur under ordinary driving conditions.  Wind, rain, and snow do not necessarily make rollovers more likely.  Instead, rollovers occur when drivers suddenly swerve to avoid obstacles in the road or when drivers accidentally veer off the road.  When this occurs, the off-balance vehicle and the high center of gravity combine to flip the car over.

Since 2004, the NHTSA has given all vehicles a “rollover rating” based on the vehicle’s Static Stability Factor.  The Static Stability Factor is a geometric calculation that divides the track width (distance between the right and left tires) by the center of gravity.  Rollover and crash test ratings can be found here.

Alcohol use and speed are also contributing factors to vehicle rollovers.

In order to reduce your risk for having a rollover, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety offers these tips:

Don’t Drive Too Fast.  By sticking to the posted speed limit you give yourself more time to react to any obstacles in the road.  Additionally, even if you are surprised by an emergency and have to swerve, the lower rate of speed will keep your vehicle on all four wheels.

Avoid Overcorrecting Your Steering.  Studies show that many rollovers occur when drivers have swerved and are overcorrecting their steering.

Practice Extra Care on Rural Roads.  Back roads, particularly those that are undivided or don’t have barriers pose an added risk when the vehicle leaves the pavement.  These roads are more likely to have a drop between the level of the pavement and the level of the grass or dirt on the side of the road.  This drop can present an added risk of rollover by shifting the car’s balance.

Properly Inflate Tires.  Improperly inflated and worn out tires can be especially dangerous because they affect your ability to control the vehicle.  Worn tires are also dangerous because of their propensity to let the vehicle slide on wet pavement.

Avoid Overloading the Vehicle.  To find out the maximum safe load for your vehicle, consult your owner’s manual.  Overloading the vehicle, especially with a roof rack, can have a substantial impact on the vehicle’s center of gravity.