Car accidents causing the most severe personal injuries continue to occur in Texas at an increasing frequency in the form of SUV rollovers and similar auto accidents. Car accident rollovers occur in roughly 20% of vehicles in fatal crashes in the U.S., although they account for only about 3% of vehicles in reported wrecks; see National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2006-Traffic Safety Facts, 2004; Report no. DOT HS-809-919, published by the federal government. In fact, I recently read that, according to one report (http://www.iihs.org/research/fatality_facts/occupants.html) by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), more than one-half of all single-vehicle crash fatalities are rollover victims.
Sport utility vehicle or SUV rollovers are the most common rollover wrecks; in fact, 62% of fatalities in SUV’s were involved in SUV rollovers, compared to only 23% for car deaths and 45% for pickup truck deaths. With the huge increase in popularity of SUV’s, there has been a commensurate increase in rollover crashes and personal injuries. However, until several recent south Texas (Duval County, Starr County and Zavala County, to name a few) jury awards of millions of dollars to victims of SUV rollovers and pickup rollovers became highly publicized, the auto industry seemed to take little action to utilize long-available technology to remedy the problem it long had known to exist.
Now, to reduce rollover tendencies, some vehicles come equipped with electronic stability control (ESC) systems, basically consisting of sensors tied to brakes and engine control units that, along with a computer that constantly monitors the vehicle’s responses to the driver’s steering actions, apply the brakes to individual wheels when needed to bring the vehicle back to its intended path. I find it amazing that one study has found that ESC systems have reduced single-vehicle fatal crash involvement by 56% (http://www.iihs.org/research/qanda/rollover.html at fn. 7). I see hope in such an improvement.