Evidence is in, will federal auto regulators listen?

Don Friendman, founder of the Center for Injury Research, discusses how vehicles and crash-test dummies withstood a real-world rollover test.

Photos by Joe Newman

Some of the video is stunning. Vehicles that did well under the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s test for roof strength didn’t do so well when the cars were actually subjected to a real-world rollover and the kind of crash forces they would experience tumbling across pavement. The crash-test dummies inside most of the vehicles didn’t do so well, either.

Public Citizen, the Center for Auto Safety and the Center for Injury Research, released video today that shows how six models of vehicles stood up to a rollover test that the government refuses to adopt for whatever reason the government refuses to take up common sense measures.

The government’s test doesn’t rollover cars at all. Instead, a weight is applied to the roof of a stationary, upright vehicle to test the strength of the roof. This test doesn’t take into account what happens to occupants of a vehicle during a rollover or how a vehicle can crumple when it rolls multiple times, as often happens in the real-life. The government’s test is inadequate, yet auto makers have been allowed to make cars that meet this standard since the early 70s.

You have to wonder why NHTSA won’t consider a rollover test, when one exists (Don Friedman, founder of the Center for Injury Research is pictured at top in front of a video of the rollover test he helped develop). All the other important tests — front and side impacts — are done with moving vehicles and crash-test dummies. Wouldn’t it seem ridiculous to test how a vehicle withstands a side impact by pushing a weight against the door of a stationary vehicle? Yet, that’s basically how NHTSA does its rollover test.

Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook
Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook
Clarence Ditlow, director of the Center for Auto Safety
Clarence Ditlow, director of the Center for Auto Safety