NHTSA’s Roof Crush Standard
The independent nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) released a study in March 2008 that describes the inadequacy of the latest roof crush standards proposed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The ability of a vehicle’s roof to resist being crushed is closely correlated to the risk of injuries and fatalities in vehicle rollovers. More than 10,000 people die each year in rollovers in the U.S.
No Upgrade of the Standard in Forty Years
The IIHS study used essentially the same performance test methodology used by the NHTSA, whose roof crush standard hasn’t been upgraded for 40 years. In highway bills released in 2005, Congress directed the NHTSA to upgrade the standard. The NHTSA finally proposed that the strength of a vehicle’s roof be increased from 1.5 to 2.5 times the vehicle’s weight.
“Quick Fix” Is Not Good Enough
This “quick fix” by the NHTSA is not based on real-world studies of rollovers and other roof crush incidents. The IIHS report notes that despite the automotive industry’s denial, there is a strong relationship between roof strength and the risk to drivers and passengers inside the vehicle, and a better roof crush standard is still needed.
Better Testing Is Needed
A better, dynamic test methodology for setting a roof crush standard, the Jordan Rollover System (JRS) has been advocated by safety proponents such as the nonprofit group Public Citizen. The JRS tests a vehicle that is in motion and measures (in addition to roof strength) the effectiveness of:
- seat belts
- air bags
- window retention
- door latching
— all of which matter greatly to the risk of passengers being ejected from a vehicle in an auto accident.
Our Government Should Act for Our Safety
Some automakers have already developed their own dynamic testing for roof crush standards. The federal government, under the direction of the NHTSA, should step up and do more to protect American drivers and passengers, toughening up the roof crush standards without being forced to do by consumer safety advocates.