Monday’s pickup truck rollover accident that snarled traffic near the Mercury Boulevard interchange on eastbound 1-64 in the Hampton, Virginia (VA), area had about the best outcome one could wish. The as-yet-unidentified driver suffered only minor injuries, according to the Daily Press.
The bad news, of course, is that the truck rolled over, seriously threatening the life of the driver and those of the people in all the other cars and tractor-trailers then on the interstate heading into Norfolk and Virginia Beach. Pickups are particularly prone to turning on their sides and tops, but pickups are not well-designed to protect drivers and passengers when they tip or flip.
A safety expert quoted in a November 2007 Forbes magazine article titled "Top 20 Most Dangerous Vehicles" explained that pickups become unstable more easily than other types of vehicle. According to the individual, "Pickups have a rollover problem. They have a high center of gravity and a high propensity to roll over. (Also,) they’re the laggards in electronic-stability control."
What this means is that when pickups enter curves at high speed without well-packed loads in their beds — as they do every day on I-64 — they can easily come off their wheels.
When pickup trucks do tip or flip, their roofs often shear off or crush in completely. Consumer Reports published a detailed review of federal regulations for roof strength in August 2009. Conclusions drawn in the article are that standards are far too low to ensure roof integrity during a rollover accident and that proposed additions to the standards would make it more difficult to hold truck makers liable for roof failures during accidents.
I fully support efforts to strengthen pickup truck roofs. Such progress can not come at the price of increasing liability protections for companies do not take every effort to make safe products.
About the Editors: The Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, whose attorneys work out of offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard, and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.