DOT Doubles Roof Strength for Light Vehicles, Orders Motorcoach Safety Review

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced tough, new roof standards on April 30 that will significantly strengthen vehicle roof structures and improve rollover crash protection.

"Rollovers are the deadliest crashes on our highways and today's rule will help occupants survive these horrific events," LaHood said.

The new regulation from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will double the current roof strength requirement for light vehicles weighing up to 6,000 pounds. It specifies that both the driver and passenger sides of the roof must be capable of withstanding a force equal to three times the weight of the vehicle.

The current standard calls for roofs to withstand 1.5 times the weight of the vehicle, applied to one side of the roof, for light vehicles up to 6,000 pounds.

Heavier vehicles from 6,000 to 10,000 pounds, which have never been regulated, must now have both sides of the roof capable of withstanding a force equal to 1.5 times the weight of the vehicle.

The phase-in schedule, which begins in September 2012, will be completed for all affected vehicles by the 2017 model year.

LaHood also reminded Americans that wearing a safety belt will significantly improve the chance of survival in a rollover crash, keeping people in their seats and preventing them from being ejected in rollover crashes. "These new standards go a long way toward reducing deaths, but safety belts are the first, most important step everyone should take to protecting themselves and their families," he said.

The tougher roof crush requirements are part of a comprehensive plan to address rollover crashes, which kill about 10,000 people annually. That approach includes a mandated electronic stability control system, which helps prevent the rollover from occurring.

The final rule is available on NHTSA's Web site, www.nhtsa.gov.

In related news, LaHood recently ordered a full departmental review of motorcoach safety. According to the department, a Departmental Motorcoach Safety Action Plan will be created from the review's findings and will outline the additional steps needed to improve motorcoach safety for the millions of Americans who rely on these vehicles for safe transportation.

"Motorcoaches have been a safe form of transportation in the United States for many years, but even a single crash or accident is unacceptable" LaHood said. "We will continue our efforts to make them as safe as possible. As Secretary of Transportation, safety is my top priority."

DOT agencies participating in the creation of the Action Plan include the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the Federal Highway Administration, and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. The review will also consider outstanding recommendations to DOT from the National Transportation Safety Board.

The full departmental review follows a recent NTSB hearing concerning the motorcoach crash in Utah in January 2008 that resulted in nine fatalities. The report is expected to be completed and released by August 2009.

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