Statement of Dena Parker

Statement of Dena Parker

Childress, Texas

June 23, 2004

My name is Dena Parker and I am here today with my husband Patrick. We had hoped to meet personally with Rep. Joe Barton, chairman of the powerful House Commerce Committee, so that he could see for himself how this law will impact people like us. Rep. Barton would not meet with us here in Texas, so Patrick and I will travel to Washington with nearly 900 signatures   on our petition to ask Congress to pass the safety provisions in S.1072, the NHTSA reauthorization bill.

Congressman Barton and other lawmakers need to understand that their votes will impact people’s lives. Patrick and I are living with the consequences of the fact that   lawmakers in Washington listen only to an industry that cares about profits instead of listening to people like us. I am talking about the auto industry.

On August 29, 2001, Patrick was permanently paralyzed, his neck broken when his pickup truck rolled over and the cab collapsed on top of him. I have spent a great deal of time in the past few years studying why the Superduty Ford F250 Supercab pickup truck he was driving crushed so easily and why Patrick is living in a wheelchair rather than walking away from that crash.

After I started researching, I began to understand fully how my husband never had a chance. I learned about how the auto industry has refused to act on the knowledge and facts that it has long had, and how the government has   failed to improve the “roof crush” standard, which is inadequate because it tests the strength of the roof on only one side of a vehicle, when in real crashes, both sides of the roof are affected. The current standard tests the roof with the windshield intact. Now, I am not an engineer or an expert, but common sense tells me that glass will hold a great deal of pressure. Common sense also tells me it will break and then be unable to hold anything, much less support the vehicle’s roof. Finally, the standard tests to a maximum of only 1 ½ times the vehicle’s weight. In real rollover crashes, the weight put on the roof is much higher.

I also learned that if a vehicle’s gross weight is more than 6,000 pounds, it doesn’t have to meet any roof crush standard, although the automaker claimed my husband’s work truck did.

The bottom line is that this test does nothing to protect anyone involved in a real rollover accident. I know now that there are foreign automakers that conduct tests that better simulate the circumstances involving a real rollover, and they make sure their vehicles meet that test, thereby enabling people to walk away from rollover accidents. A rollover standard should simulate actual rollover conditions. I read that Ford owns Volvo, and later found out about the Volvo XC90, which has a roof that exceeds our roof crush standard by more than 100 percent. If my husband had been in a vehicle such as that, he would have walked away, but my husband was driving a super heavy-duty work truck.

We were shocked to find out that there are vehicles that weigh less, even passenger cars, that have thicker materials in the roof structure than that super heavy-duty F250 did.

The auto industry has been blaming drivers for their unnecessary injuries. People hear propaganda from automakers as they watch the commercials on TV about how strong and safe their trucks and cars are built. But the auto industry has used excuses all these years NOT to do the right thing. If we had a meaningful roof crush standard, Patrick would have walked away from his accident.

For too many years, Congress has allowed auto manufacturers to build their products however they want. They are able to skimp on building safer vehicles to give themselves a larger profit margin at the expense of people like us. It’s time to stop them.

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To view Dena Parker’s petition, click here.