DOT Modifies Roof Strength Proposal

The U.S. Department of Transportation recently issued a modification of its proposed new roof crush standard to request public input on whether both sides of a vehicle roof should be tested and meet minimum forces.

If adopted, the two-sided testing would require manufacturers to design vehicle roofs that withstand at least 2.5 times the weight of the vehicle on both sides of the roof as an alternative to testing just one side. A proposal, announced in August 2005, would require auto makers to build vehicle roofs to withstand a force equal to 2.5 times the vehicle weight, as applied to only one side. The proposed roof strengthening would apply to vehicles weighing up to 10,000 pounds.

"Rollover crashes are among the most violent events on America's highways, and although they constitute a relatively small number of overall crashes, they account for a disproportionate number of deaths -- approximately 10,000 a year," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters. "This proposal will build on our efforts to improve vehicle safety, will save lives and will protect people from injury," she added.

Peters noted that the amended roof crush proposal is part of a comprehensive program to reduce rollover fatalities and injuries, and includes mandating new technologies such as Electronic Stability Control which can save an estimated 9600 lives a year, as well as stronger door locks. She also noted that using seat belts remains the most effective way to prevent fatalities and injuries in all types of crashes, including rollovers.

Nicole Nason, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said that the earlier roof crush proposal was being amended today because extensive research conducted since August of 2005 indicates that the double-sided testing procedure is now a viable alternative approach to improve vehicle roof strength.

"We want the benefit of public comments on whether the one-sided or double-sided procedure would be the wisest approach to save lives and protect people from serious injury due to contact with collapsed roofs," Nason said. She noted that NHTSA was releasing all the testing the agency has done since August 2005, including a series of one-and two-sided test results, as part of today's supplemental proposal.

She added that the agency would seek comment over the coming 45 days before making a final decision. She also said that the agency plans to issue a final rule by the summer of 2008.

The proposal can be viewed in at http://www.nhtsa.gov (link opens PDF file).

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