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Bush Administration’s Roof Crush Rule Inadequate; Ignores Congress’ Goal to Reduce Rollover Deaths

March 27, 2008  

Bush Administration’s Roof Crush Rule Inadequate; Ignores Congress’ Goal to Reduce Rollover Deaths  

Public Citizen Calls for Comprehensive Testing to Protect Vehicle Occupants

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) proposed performance standard for vehicle roofs falls woefully short of satisfying a congressional mandate to significantly improve the ability of vehicles to protect occupants in rollover crashes, Public Citizen said in comments filed Thursday with the agency.

NHTSA’s proposed roof crush rule fails to require manufacturers to test both the driver and passenger sides of vehicles and does not require a dynamic test that mimics an actual rollover, which would include taking into account passenger ejection and containment. Instead, NHTSA’s rule relies on measuring the ability of the driver’s side roof to resist 2.5 times the vehicle’s weight, which is an increase from the existing standard but does very little by itself to improve safety, according to Public Citizen’s comments.

“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,” said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook, who served as NHTSA administrator from 1977 to 1981. “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.”

Congress instructed NHTSA in the 2005 highway bill to reduce rollover deaths by writing new performance standards that would improve vehicle stability, reduce passenger ejections and increase roof strength. The legislation also clearly called for testing both sides of the vehicle roof. Studies show that the initial impact of a rollover can substantially weaken the other side of the roof, which greatly increases the chance it will crumple and injure the occupant.

Public Citizen’s comments call for NHTSA to put more research into developing a test that focuses on protecting occupants during rollover crashes. The agency’s proposal is so inadequate that Public Citizen recommends NHTSA go back to the drawing board and produce a completely new proposal.

LEARN more.

READ Public Citizen’s comments to NHTSA.