Light vehicle rollover accidents on soft surfaces can be modeled assuming constant drag with linear motion equations and other engineering principles. The concept of using segment average results to evaluate roll mechanics parameters throughout a roll sequence, and specifically, segment duration to evaluate vehicle trajectory between ground impacts is developed. The trajectory model is presented, explained and compared to values obtained by analyzing digital video of rollover crash tests. Detailed film analysis procedures are developed to obtain data from rollover crash tests that are not otherwise documented. Elevation of the center of gravity of vehicles is obtained where instrumentation does not explicitly yield this data. Instantaneous center of gravity elevation data throughout a roll sequence provides the opportunity to calculate descend distances as a vehicle travels from one ground contact to another. This data is used to quantify severity of ground impacts as a vehicle interact with the ground throughout a roll sequence. Segment average analysis is a reasonable method for determining general roll mechanics parameters. Because of the chaotic nature of rollover accidents, the range of effective drag factors for a given roll surface may be quite large. Choosing an average of typical drag factors is a reasonable approach for a first-order approximation although certain parameters may be predicted less accurately than if actual values were known. The trajectory results demonstrate the influence of drag factor descent height calculations. Typical constant drag factors tend to overestimate descent height early in a roll sequence and underestimate descent height later in the sequence. The trajectory model is a useful tool to aid in understanding rollover mechanics although a rolling vehicle may be in contact with the ground for a significant fraction of a roll segment. The model should not be used at locations in roll sequences where there are extremes in translational center of gravity decelerations. These extremes include the segments immediately following overturn where there are large angular accelerations and large differences between the tangential velocity of the vehicle perimeter and the translational velocity of the center of gravity, as well as segments that include vehicle impacts with irregular topography.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Civil and Environmental Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





rollover, accident reconstruction, trajectory mechanics, soft surface, parameters, roll, drag factor, angular velocity, velocity, energy, moment of inertia, center of rotation, fmvss 208, dolly rollover test, roll rate, video, film analysis