ROOF SAFETY IN AMERICAN AUTOMOBILES SHOWS INADEQUACY IN STRENGTH STANDARDS
There is growing concern over roof safety in American automobiles. Serious injury and death have resulted from accidents involving rollovers, with more than 10,000 deaths a year. When vehicles roll, their roofs hit the ground, deform, and crush. Stronger roofs crush and can also prevent occupants, especially those who aren’t using safety belts, from being ejected through windows, windshields, or doors that have broken or opened because the roof has deformed. Roofs that don’t collapse help keep people inside vehicles as they roll.
The federal government has not paid enough attention to this aspect of car manufacturing. As a result, we have been unacceptably below roof crush standards. Continual delays and inaction by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have caused a proliferation of low standard, out-of-date and unrealistic roof crush tests, and even caused the suppression of rollover test videos. In 2006, a report from the U.S. Consumer watchdog group Public Citizen was published comparing the outcome of a rollover between a Volvo XC 90 and a Ford Explorer.
Unfortunately, American roof crush standards have not been upgraded since 2006. The tests were performed on the Jordan Rollover System (JRS) which was sponsored by the Santo Family Foundation. The test was not conducted by NHTSA because the government measures roof strength with a “static crush” test, in which a slow moving metal plate bears down on the automobile. An automobile’s roof passes if the roof can withstand one times the vehicle’s weight worth of pressure. The more realistic JRS test simulated a multiple rollover. The maximum intrusion on the Volvo’s roof was 2.6 inches and peak roof intrusion velocity was less than four miles per hour. Its dummy occupants escaped serious injury in multiple rollovers.
In contrast, the Ford Explorer recorded a dangerous score of 11.5 inches and peak roof intrusion velocity was 12 mph, exceeding the known thresholds for death and serious injury. Because of the Explorer’s poor performance, Ford sought and received protective orders in 24 courts. The protective orders effectively concealed the test video from the public. Now, however, the results of these tests are available to the public.
The study confirmed that vehicles that had poor results in the JRS have been shown to perform poorly in real life. Delays continue from the NHTSA in issuing new and improved roof crush safety standards, with their contention that automobile manufacturers are not in a position to raise their standards. The domestic car companies have asked the federal government to bail them out making major headlines this year. Hopefully, the automobile companies will be encouraged to manufacture cars that the public wants, with an emphasis on safety as well as performance.
SOURCE: PUBLIC CITIZEN