New video highlights woefully inadequate vehicle roof strength standards

posted on:
December 17, 2008

Kurt Niland

When it comes to roof safety in American automobiles, you have to ask what is going on. Unacceptably low roof crush standards, continual delays and inaction by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to boost those low standards, archaic and unrealistic roof crush tests, and even suppression of rollover test videos.

In 2006, the U.S. Consumer watchdog group Public Citizen published results of dynamic roof crush tests comparing the performance of a Volvo XC90s and a Ford Explorer in realistic rollovers. American roof crush standards have not changed since then and unfortunately those results are as valid today as they were in 2006.

The tests were performed on the Jordan Rollover System (JRS) and were sponsored by the Santo Family Foundation. The test was not conducted by the NHTSA because the government measures roof strength with a “static crush” test, in which a slow moving metal plate bears down on the automobile. If the automobile’s roof can withstand one times the vehicle’s weight worth of pressure, it passes.

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 4 miles per hour. Its dummy occupants escaped serious injury in multiple rollovers.

However, the Ford and its occupants didn’t fare so well. Maximum roof intrusion on the Explorer was 11.5 inches and peak roof intrusion velocity was 12 mph, exceeding the known thresholds for death and serious injury. Its occupants were severely injured.

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:

So far, the JRS test results mirror actual known rollover crashes of various vehicles. Vehicles that perform poorly in the JRS have shown to perform poorly in real life.

Just this week, the NHTSA announced its latest delay in issuing new and improved roof crush safety standards, saying that the time isn’t right for the auto manufacturing industry to have to raise their standards. This latest delay is the last in a long series of delays, and will effectively toss the responsibility in hot-potato fashion to the next administration.

After more than three decades of such games, isn’t this the perfect time for better, safer American cars? The major American car companies are asking the public to bail them out, so it’s only right that they start making cars that the public wants.

More Information:

Public Citizen:

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