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Are auto industry profits worth more than saving lives?


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration doesn’t seem to understand what Congress meant when it directed the agency to develop a new standard for vehicle roofs that would help reduce the thousands of deaths each year from rollover crashes. The standard it has proposed is so inadequate, it might as well have been written by the auto industry, which has a long history of opposing important vehicle safety improvements. Seat belts. Airbags. Those are just two of the advances industry opposed. Now, NHTSA has proposed a rule that requires stronger vehicle roofs but completely ignores what happens to the people inside a vehicle when it rolls over.

The test that NHTSA would require involves pressing a weight down on the driver’s side of the vehicle roof, which would have to stand up to 2.5 times the vehicle’s weight. The glaring problem with this approach is that it ignores reality.

When a vehicle rolls over, the structural damage from the initial contact with the ground can severely weaken the other side of the roof, which then has an even greater chance of crumpling as the car continues to roll.

Doesn’t it make sense that NHTSA design a test that puts a vehicle through an actual roll over? What is even more perplexing is that this type of test already exists, as you can see in the video above.

Here’s what Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook had to say about the proposed rule:

Congress demanded that NHTSA do something to reduce the more than 10,500 deaths each year from rollover crashes, and what it got was a feeble proposal that seems more intent on appeasing industry than improving safety. In fact, NHTSA estimates that the proposal will save, at most, only 44 lives a year. We need a comprehensive, dynamic testing standard that looks not only at roof strength but also what happens to passengers during a rollover.

Public Citizen submitted comments today to NHTSA urging the agency to go back to the drawing board and come up with a new rule that follows Congress’ mandate.