Federal auto safety officials have yet again put off updating a controversial standard for vehicle roof strength, according to a news report in the watchdog Web site, Consumeraffairs.com. This one has been a long time coming not only because the existing standard is more than 35 years old, but because of the lives that are lost every year just in rollover crashes, which adds up to more than 10,000 fatalities a year.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) is now asking for more information from auto manufacturers, safety advocates and the public about the proposed new standards. Auto safety advocates such as Joan Claybrook of Public Citizen are asking that auto makers be mandated to do dynamic roof crush testing – which means the rollover testing must be done when the vehicles are moving. But auto makers are saying they want to keep the static test – which is performed when the vehicles are not moving. How many rollover accidents occur when vehicles are not moving? Hopefully, federal officials have asked themselves that question.
Tens of thousands of lives have been lost in passenger car and sport utility vehicle rollover crashes in the United States even as this tug-of-war has been going on for decades. SUV makers such as Ford and General Motors are prime culprits in this because they have been fighting a stronger standard all along. They don’t want to do the dynamic testing or put heavier or stronger roofs because they cost more and push up the price of the vehicles.
How does the consumer suffer? Our personal injury law firm has represented numerous clients who have been victims of SUV rollover crashes. Many have suffered catastrophic injuries, brain injuries and have been rendered paraplegic or quadriplegic because these flimsy roofs cave in on them and crush them snapping their spinal cords.
Congress most recently directed NHTSA to adopt a new roof standard by April 2009 and NHTSA officials have said they plan to issue a new standard later this year. We hope these federal safety officials, who get paid by taxpayer dollars, bear in mind that they work for us and not for the big corporations or the auto manufacturers. This is their opportunity to issue a solid ruling that will hold auto makers accountable for their products and make sure their vehicles do what they are supposed to do to protect their occupants.
When you set the bar low to begin with, it merely results in weak, defective products that jeopardize our safety and security. When NHTSA realizes that and comes up with a rule that has real teeth, their five-star rating will be more than a fancy slogan to put in car commercials. Only then will such ratings go up in value and mean something to the average consumer.