Rollovers: What To Do Before, During, and After

By Nena Barlow
This article originally appeared on

Roll, flop, dirt nap—whatever your favorite term for a Jeep ending up not on its wheels, rolling over is one of the biggest fears people have about four-wheeling. We can talk all day about good driving techniques to avoid rolling in the first place, but no matter how good you are, mistakes happen. It’s good to be prepared. Protecting the occupants is the number-one priority. Here are things you can do to help everyone walk away safely from a rollover.


As with most things, a little preparation goes a long way. Regularly check the security of your battery tie-down. Keep spare tires, Hi-Lift jack carriers, off-road lights, and other external accessories tightly attached. Every time you get inside the Jeep, examine the contents of the passenger compartment, no matter what level of trail or highway you will be driving. What is inside that can become a flying projectile? Certainly, any tools or heavy objects should be secured, not just tossed under the seat. Water bottles, tablets, and radios should be given a critical eye. There are countless stories of tragedy where the actual impact of the rollover didn’t injure anyone, but rather the things that flew around inside the passenger compartment did. And it should go without saying that everyone must wear seatbelts. Always.

If you have to roll, how do you do it? With a Toyota, of course! The sole purpose in life for Candy, my 1990 Toyota 4Runner, is to perform rollovers and flops for the purpose of demonstrations for preparation and recovery training. She is equipped with an exo-cage, 5-point harness, battery cutoff and heavy-duty tie-down, and receives full inspections for leaks, crimped wires, and sharp edges after every “job.”


Get small. It is an unfortunately common thing to see people stick their arms or legs out to try to “stop” the Jeep from rolling over. Don’t. Even if you are extraordinarily strong and could accomplish this, is it worth risking injury? The best thing to do is compact yourself downward and toward the center of the vehicle. You also want to try to hold on to something not near the exterior of the vehicle so your arms aren’t flailing around. Don’t reach for the roll bar grab handles, but rather cross your arms and grip your seatbelt. When I am driving, I hold on to the steering wheel for two reasons. First, as a way to secure my hands, but with thumbs out of the wheel, of course. Second, because I may be able to affect the motion of the vehicle for the better if the front tires come back in contact with the ground. If you turn into the direction of motion and blip the throttle, you may be able to pull yourself out of it, or at least slow it down.

Check that your battery tie down is secure and doesn’t allow your battery to bounce around at all. This is Candy’s custom-made tie down.


Once the vehicle has stopped moving, the first thing you should do is turn off the ignition. You want electricity and fuel flow to stop as soon as possible. Furthermore, if you are upside down with the motor running, you risk blowing up the motor. Next, before anyone jumps out, assess the area’s situation and stability of the rig. If you are with a group of vehicles, it is usually best for someone else from outside the rig to assess first and secure it, while the passengers stay quietly seat-belted in the fallen rig. If you are on your own, you are going to have to do your best to determine from inside the vehicle if it is safe to start to move around. Before removing seat belts, remember that gravity is pulling you in a different direction than usual, and brace yourself accordingly. Assuming that the vehicle is not on fire and no one is seriously injured, take your time, move very carefully, and pay attention to any slight shifts in weight. Most people will be a little shaky from the adrenaline of the event, so take extra care that everyone exiting the rig is holding on securely and paying careful attention to hand holds and foot holds. If you are climbing out of a rig on its side, be careful about using a hot undercarriage to climb down.

After everyone is safely out of the rig, recovery assessment can begin. Again, the priority is determining how everyone is going to get home safely—hopefully in your up-righted rig, with only a few scratches and a great story to tell!

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About the Author
Nena Barlow
Nena Barlow

Barlow Adventures owner, Nena Barlow grew up in the Southwest, exploring the back roads by Jeep, horse, and hiking boots. She has been in the Jeep business since 1996, providing tours, 4wd instruction, location scouting, offroad event planning, trail mapping & photography, and recovery.

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