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Vehicles’ center of gravity and mass play a role in accidents

One person is dead and eighteen are injured after a bus carrying the Lehigh University rowing team collided with a car on Route 22 in Hanover Township, Pennsylvania. None of the students was seriously injured; the driver of the car was pronounced dead about an hour after the crash.

It is remarkable that the accident only seems to have caused minor injuries for the people on the bus. That's because the bus rolled over; rollover accidents account for more fatalities than other kinds of crashes. 

It may seem odd that a smaller car could have the power to flip an entire bus. But larger vehicles like SUVs, vans and school buses have a higher center of gravity, and are therefore more susceptible to rolling over than vehicles with a lower center of gravity. This is true not just in cases of collisions; vehicles with higher centers of gravity are at a greater risk of rollovers even when another car is not involved. The risk is even higher when these types of vehicles travel at high speeds. 

Many people cite a feeling of safety driving vehicles like large trucks or SUVs, because these vehicles sit higher on the road than standard passenger cars. The sheer mass of these large vehicles do provide an advantage in a crash situation, as is unfortunately illustrated by the fact that the one fatality in this recent rollover accident was the driver of the smaller vehicle. However, the higher center of gravity of SUVs, large trucks and buses means that people driving these vehicles are at a greater risk of a rollover, even under normal driving conditions. 

 

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