ANSI - American National Standards Institute
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Consumer Groups Call for Legislation to Reduce Danger of Rollover Crashes

New York, Mar 30, 2004

Advocacy groups including Consumers Union, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and the Consumer Federation of America called for Congress to enact legislation that would make vehicle roofs safer during rollover crashes. At a press conference last week featuring stories from more than half a dozen crash victims and demonstrations by auto suppliers of safety technologies available to automakers, the groups lauded a bill to reauthorize the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The bill has been approved by the Senate and is pending in the House of Representatives, and includes requirements for strengthening vehicle roofs and preventing rollovers.

The proposed legislation calls for a safety requirement on rollover crashworthiness that would apply to passenger vehicles with a gross weight of less than 10,000 pounds, using a roof strength standard based on dynamic tests that realistically duplicate the actual forces transmitted to a vehicle during an on-roof rollover crash. If passed, the bill would apply to dozens of models of the heaviest sport utility vehicles (SUV) and pickup trucks that are currently exempt from any roof strength regulations, which were created long before the rise in popularity of SUVs.

SUVs have received increasing scrutiny as their numbers on the road rise along with increasing related accident statistics. The large vehicles contribute to a growing number of deaths related to rollover accidents—now more than 10,000 annually. In addition to rollover prevention, the bill would further require new government frontal crash tests, protections for children in 15-passenger vans, tire safety improvements, more advanced passenger restraint systems and more safety information provided to purchasers of new cars.

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), an ANSI member and accredited standards developer, has published Recommended Practice J374, Vehicle Roof Strength Test Procedure, which establishes a uniform laboratory test method to evaluate the strength characteristics of roof systems. The test procedure is intended to provide reliable and repeatable results and to permit numerical comparisons. Manufacturers and suppliers use such tests and their results in the development of rollover sensors and occupant protection counter measures, as well as certification practices. SAE publications have been the basis for considerable attention by NHTSA and the automotive industry in addressing rollover crash safety. Voluntary standards from organizations like SAE serve U.S. interests well because government, consumers and industry work together to create them.

Measures in the bill that the NHTSA would have to meet include:

  • Upgrade tire aging and performance standards
  • Upgrade standards for vehicle performance in front- and side-impact crashes
  • Establish minimum standards for vehicle resistance to rollovers
  • Establish minimum standards for how well a vehicle can withstand a rollover. Must consider stronger roofs, tighter seat belts and side air bags among options
  • Develop a new moving crash test that realistically duplicates a vehicle rolling over
  • Establish new standards to minimize impact on smaller vehicles when they're hit by larger vehicles