FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2005
Janell Mayo Duncan, 202-462-6262
but Fails to Require Meaningful Upgrade in Roof Strength
Also May Shield Carmakers Who Make Weak Roofs, Consumers Union says
(Washington, D.C.) – While proposed government roof-crush standards to prevent serious injury during rollover accidents will now cover many large SUVs and pickups, they fail to require roofs strong enough to adequately protect occupants in a rollover crash, Consumers Union said today.
The proposal also seeks to protect car makers from lawsuits by those injured in a rollover if the roof meets the new low-strength standard.
“We applaud this move toward improving rollover safety, but believe the proposed standard is extremely inadequate given the risk of serious injury in a rollover crash,” said Janell Mayo Duncan, legislative and regulatory counsel for Consumers Union, which filed comments to the National Highway Transportation Safety Authority (NHTSA) on its proposed roof-crush standards.
“Not only is the agency proposing a weak standard, it is trying to prohibit people from suing manufacturers for injuries sustained from crushed roofs if the vehicles meet the inadequate government standard,” Duncan said.
According to NHTSA estimates, approximately 24,000 people are seriously injured, and 10,000 people die annually in 273,000 rollover crashes of light vehicles (excluding convertibles). Although rollovers are only 3 percent of all light-vehicle crashes, they cause almost one-third of all deaths in light vehicles, and 60 percent of deaths in light vehicle SUVs. NHTSA estimates that 807 people are seriously injured, and 596 people die annually due to roof intrusion and roof contact.
Current roof crush standards require that vehicles with a weight up to 6,000 pounds be able to withstand a force applied to the roof of 1.5 times the weight of the vehicle, called a strength-to-weight ratio. The proposed rule would extend to vehicles with a gross weight of 10,000 pounds, covering most large sport utility vehicles. The proposed rule also would increase the applied force of the test from 1.5 to 2.5 times a vehicle’s unloaded weight. In its comments, Consumers Union has asked for the rule to require vehicles to resist a force of 3.5 times a vehicle’s weight.
“The proposed standard fails to require a significant improvement over the roof strength found in most light vehicles on the market today,” Duncan said, noting that the Volvo XC90 SUV now on the market reportedly has achieved an SWR of approximately 3.5, a clear indication that achieving such a standard is possible. “If one manufacturer can make a strong roof to protect passengers in the event of a rollover, other carmakers can and should as well,” she said.
To read Consumers Union’s full comments filed with NHTSA, click here