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Car Makers Get Tougher Roof Strength Standards

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By David Goguen on May 01, 2009 7:47 AM

In an effort to reduce injuries and deaths from vehicle rollover accidents, federal highway safety officials announced this week that car makers will need to comply with tougher vehicle roof strength standards.

Below are details of the new vehicle roof strength regulations, from the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

  • For lighter vehicles (up to 6,000 pounds), the new federal regulations will double current roof strength requirements, mandating that the driver and passenger sides of vehicle roofs be able to withstand an impact three times the vehicle's weight. Current standards for lighter vehicles call for roofs to withstand 1.5 times the vehicle's weight.
  • For heavier vehicles (6,000 to 10,000 pounds), which haven't been subject to roof strength regulations until now, standards are set at the ability to withstand a force up to 1.5 times the vehicle's weight.
  • Timeline for Compliance. The new roof strength standards will be phased-in beginning in September 2012, and compliance for all affected vehicles must be in place by the 2017 model year.

The new vehicle roof strength standards have already set off debate, the Wall Street Journal reports, with car makers pointing out that vehicle occupants' use of seat belts -- not the vehicle's roof strength -- is the most important factor in the prevention of deaths from vehicle rollover accident. Meanwhile, vehicle safety advocates, who have been clamoring for tougher vehicle roof strength standards for decades, say that roof strength requirements should be even more stringent, and that the 2017 completion deadline is too far off, according to the WSJ.

Rollover accidents are responsible for one-third of all passenger vehicle fatalities, and kill more than 10,000 drivers and passngers every year, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).