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New Study Says SUVs Need Stronger Roofs

Published Apr 9th 2008, 10:55pm by Patty Streeter in Featured Articles

Roofjeepcherokeex Do you feel safe in the event your SUV rolls over? When you look for a vehicle, do you think about roof strength as a safety issue? The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety does. In a recent report the Institute concludes that more than 200 deaths in 2006 could have been prevented with strong SUV roofs.

Some automakers have insisted there’s no connection between roof strength and passenger safety. Wouldn’t basic physics make it fairly obvious that a stronger roof would be less likely to crush in a rollover accident? That seems pretty obvious to me. But there was no direct link until now.

Interestingly, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) hasn’t changed roof strength standards since 1971. That’s right, it’s been almost 40 years since the NHTSA updated their standards. With the proliferation of SUVs — and their propensity for rollovers — isn’t it time the NHTSA steps up? They estimate their planned updates will only save 13-44 lives a year. Well, then maybe they need to update a little further?

The Institute concludes from their study that a stronger roof reduces injury risk — by a lot. They estimate that people in vehicles like the top-rated Nissan Xterra have up to 57% less chance of serious injury or death in a rollover than the lowest rated SUVs.

Some newer SUVs use side-curtain air bags that stay deployed in rollovers and stronger seat belts that keep passengers seated during rollovers. That’s a great idea. However, if a roof isn’t strong enough to prevent collapse into the passenger area, then none of that will matter, will it?

The debate still rages on between safety advocates, who insist roofs need to be stronger, and manufacturers, who insist there’s no definitive answer as to the connection between roof strength and injury risk. So tell us, what do you think? Should consumers call for stronger vehicle roofs? Is there enough evidence out there? Let us know in the comments.

[Source: USA Today]

Becky_headshot By Becky Scott
Contributing Editor

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