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Roof Crush Standard Delayed By NHTSA


Federal safety regulators are delaying a tougher vehicle roof-strength standard by three months, according to a news report in the Detroit Free Press. This more stringent standard is expected to prevent highway deaths in rollover accidents that caused vehicles with weak roofs to cave in and crush causing numerous fatalities, brain and spinal injuries.

The new roof crush standard, which was supposed to have been in place by July 1, will instead be issued Oct. 1, according to a recent announcement made by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). Safety advocates reportedly told regulators June 4 that the proposed rule was inadequate and that the federal safety agency should take more time to strengthen the proposed standard.

More than 10,000 people die in the United States each year in rollover accidents. Many of these auto accidents involve sport utility vehicles, which are prone to rollovers because of their high center of gravity. Recent studies by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety showed that Ford Explorer and Chevrolet Suburban, especially the older models, had the worst roof strength which has been confirmed by our own testing.

During litigation of rollover and roof crush/collapse cases, we have conducted extensive testing that shows that the roofs on many SUVs, especially the Chevrolet Suburban, Tahoe and nearly Chevy’s whole line of trucks, the GMC Yukon and Yukon XL and the whole line of Ford SUVs, the Explorer, the Expedition and the Excursion may not be able to withstand a rollover accident, and result in roof deformation and crushing. The results have been eye-opening. Even in low-speed, relatively low-impact rollover accidents, the roofs on these vehicles cave in, leaving the occupants with major injuries, rendering many victims paralyzed and those were the fortunate ones…

The standard proposed by the NHTSA has been a long time coming. Industry and safety experts have known for three decades that the present standard does very little to keep people safe in auto accidents, especially rollover accidents. Federal officials must require a “dynamic” test instead of a “static” test. The newly proposed standard only requires a vehicle’s roof strength to be tested when it is stationary. But that does not reflect a real-life crash. Vehicles are moving, not standing, when most accidents occur.

We’ve waited 30 years for this much-needed new rule. If this three-month delay will strengthen this roof strength standard, help prevent rollover and roof crush fatalities and save lives, I welcome the delay.

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