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NHTSA’s Unfulfilled Promises Leave Us At Risk

In 1994, the agency, relying in part on obsolete data from the late 1980s regarding the number of sports utility vehicles (SUVs) in the vehicle population, terminated work on a rollover propensity standard by promising that a series of improvements in rollover crashworthiness and consumer information were forthcoming.

These promised improvements included advanced window glazing to prevent ejections and incentives to increase the use of seat belts. The agency also promised stronger roofs and has made additional promises in subsequent public statements about requiring improvements in door latches and hinges and upper side impact protection.

None of the promised regulations on rollover crashworthiness have been issued. This record is particularly shocking when we consider that the number of rollover-prone SUVs being driven by the general public has skyrocketed since 1994, and that light truck vehicles (LTVs) now comprise more than one-half of all new vehicle sales.

The issue of roof crush in rollovers was not addressed in the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act.   Roof crush is a crashworthiness issue; the agency issued a “request for comments” last fall, and both the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and Public Citizen submitted comments to the agency’s docket.