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Federal Government Improves Rollover Protection by Doubling New Roof Safety Standard for Light Vehicles and Introducing Standards for Heavier Autos

To increase occupant protection during rollover accidents, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is instituting new roof safety standards for light vehicles and heavier vehicles that will result in dramatically stronger vehicle roof structures. Under the new standard, light vehicles weighing up to 6,000 pounds will have to withstand a force of three times the vehicle’s weight. This is a significant increase from the current standard that requires a vehicle to withstand 1.5 times the vehicle weight applied to one side of the roof. Heavier vehicles, weighing from 6,000 to 10,000 pounds, will now have an actual roof safety standards they will have to meet. Their roofs will have to withstand a force equivalent to 1.5 times the vehicle’s weight. The phase-in period will start in September 2012 and must be completed for all vehicles within these weight ranges by the 2017 model year.
While this new standard should increase passenger protection during rollover crashes, the NHTSA is quick to point out that strengthening vehicles’ roofs is only one solution to preventing rollover deaths. About 10,000 people are killed in the US each year in rollover crashes, and roof strength was a factor in only 667 of those deaths. The NHTSA estimates that the new roof safety standards will prevent another 135 rollover fatalities from occurring each year.
There are other safety measures that auto makers can implement to prevent rollover accidents. The NHTSA says electronic stability control (ESC) can reduce rollover deaths by anywhere from 4,200 to 5,500 fatalities each year. Safety belts is another effective countermeasure that the NHTSA says saves lives during rollover crashes—reducing deaths by 80% in light trucks and 74% in passenger cars. According to studies, an ejected vehicle occupant has a three times greater chance of dying than a vehicle occupant who manages to stay in the vehicle during an auto accident. Use of seat belts is one way to keep occupants securely fastened in their vehicles.
It is up to vehicle manufacturers to make sure that they meet federal safety standards and that they install safety device that are free from defects and in proper working condition in the autos that they sell. When failure to make vehicles and auto parts that are free from defects results in personal injury or wrongful death, the auto maker and other liable parties may be held liable for products liability.
Proving negligence in a rollover accident can be tough—especially in rollover collisions involving just one vehicle. This is why you need to work with rollover accident attorneys who have the experience, skills, and resources to successfully pursue your financial recovery.
U.S. DOT Doubles Roof Strength Standard for Light Vehicles, NHTSA, April 30, 2009
Read the Final Rule (PDF)
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