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Stronger Roofs Will Save Lives In SUV Rollover Accidents

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It turns out that personal injury attorneys and advocacy groups were right all along on the issue of SUV rollover and roof crush. A study released this week by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) reveals beyond doubt that there is a definite connection between a vehicle’s roof strength and passenger safety. The study concludes that more than 200 deaths could have been prevented in rollover accidents in 2006 had the roofs been stronger, an article in USA Today reports.

Here’s an excellent example to help you visualize what these guys mean when they say “roof strength.” When the 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee and 2000 Nissan Xterra were subjected to the crushing force of up to 10,000 pounds, the Xterra’s roof crushed about 2 inches while the Grand Cherokee’s roof crushed 10 inches, according to the study. And still some carmakers deny there is any connection between roof strength and passenger safety. The Ford Explorer performed even worse, especially the 1996 to 2001 model years.

The study was released even as federal officials in the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) are preparing to come out with more rigorous standards to test roof strength. But these have been a long time coming. NHTSA has been talking about new roof strength standards for a decade and proposed new standards two years ago but nothing has been implemented. The standards have not been updated in nearly 30 years giving auto makers like Ford the excuse that they have been complying with the federal standard.

The not so funny thing is every time we sue Ford on a roof crush case, they always defend themselves by telling the jury that they comply with federal standards, however, the reason NHTSA hasn’t promulgated new standards is because the auto industry keeps fighting to prevent any standards. The auto industry likes the old standards that they bullied through 30 years ago and don’t want any changes.

The auto industry uses their political clout to keep standards from being updated. Currently Ford, General Motors, Chrysler and their foreign competitors are lobbying together for the new standards to be much weaker than even NHTSA wants and they are pushing hard for a release of all liability if they meet their proposed watered down standards.

The frustrating part for us as personal injury attorneys is that we know that auto makers like Ford and GM are well-aware of the facts of this new study. They knew what the outcome of this study would be. They do their own testing. And yet, what did they choose to do? They made a conscious decision to increase their profit margins by skimping on roof strength, knowing that a couple hundred people will die and countless numbers will be seriously injured due to roof collapse.

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