ST. GEORGE — Two people were flown to the hospital after a single-vehicle rollover on Interstate 15 when a passenger car reportedly lost a front tire while traveling at freeway speeds.
At 7:15 p.m., officers and emergency personnel were dispatched to a single-vehicle rollover on northbound I-15 near mile marker 59 in Iron County with one occupant trapped inside of the car. A second passenger was thrown from the vehicle when it rolled, UHP Trooper Colton Freckleton said.
Crews arrived to find that the front-seat passenger was trapped inside of the Honda Accord and was seriously injured. Firefighters worked to free the passenger who was then transported by ambulance to the Cedar City Hospital in serious condition.
The back-seat passenger, who was not restrained at the time of the crash, was thrown from the vehicle and found seriously injured nearby, Freckleton said. The male passenger was also ground-transported to the hospital.
Once both passengers were stabilized, they were flown to Dixie Regional Medical Center, a level II trauma center, for treatment.
The driver suffered minor cuts and bruises and was not transported to the hospital.
At the time of the crash, the driver told troopers that one of the car’s tires came off as he headed north on I-15, causing him to lose control of the car that went off the right shoulder of the highway. After going off the shoulder, it rolled at least one time and then came to rest on a frontage road running parallel to the interstate.
Freckleton said he driver was very cooperative at the scene and while impairment did not appear to play any role in the crash, speed may have contributed to the driver losing control of the car before it went into the rollover, according to a witness statement provided at the scene.
The trooper also reiterated the importance of seat-belt use. The backseat passenger “would definitely have been saved from being ejected and his injuries would have been far less severe had he been wearing his seat belt,” Freckleton said.
“The seat belt would have kept him inside of the vehicle – that’s the bottom line,” he added.
Non-restrained occupants and rollovers – a deadly combination
Given the right circumstances, any vehicle can roll over, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.
A study conducted by the National Institutes of Health revealed that seat belt use virtually eliminated complete ejections with a 99.8% effectiveness rate and substantially reduced the rate of partial ejections.
Another study in 2014 showed that a vehicle occupant who is unrestrained is 91 times more likely to die in a rollover if they are completely ejected during the crash. The study also showed that ejection was a leading cause of crash-related deaths among children.
Research also shows that more often than not, fatal rollover crashes are speed-related. In fact, research shows that 40% of fatal rollover crashes involved excessive speeding and about 75% take place where the posted speed limit was 55 mph or higher, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.
Unlike Saturday’s crash, nearly half of all fatal rollover crashes involve alcohol and studies have shown that impairment can result from any blood alcohol concentration above zero, the safety council says. Even a small amount of alcohol can negatively affect judgment, muscular coordination and vision, which increases the risk of losing control of the vehicle.
More than 85% of rollover crashes involve only one vehicle, and 90% of them take place during routine driving maneuvers, like going straight or negotiating a curve, just before the rollover occurs.
St. George News reporter Jeff Richards contributed to this report.
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