During 2005, 43,200 Americans were killed in motor vehicle crashes on highways in this country. While less than 5% of those crashes were rollovers, fully 25% of the
fatalities – 10,816 in 2005 – were from rollovers. The vast majority of rollover fatalities and injuries are the result of the roofs crushing down on the passengers – or when the roof crush shatters the side window glass, allowing deadly ejections to occur – and that is a matter of record. In addition to the almost 11,000 fatalities a year from roof crush accidents, in 2005 the total number of quadriplegics in motor vehicle collisions totaled 5,608 according to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, which is located in Birmingham, Alabama. A significant number of those are due to roof crush in rollovers.
As pointed out above in the discussion on preemption, the automobile industry is using a federal regulatory agency to eliminate the rights of injured car crash victims to seek justice and compensation for their preventable injuries. It’s abundantly clear that the proposed roof crush standard is dangerously weak and lags behind existing, practical technology. If NHTSA allows the automakers and their powerful lobby to control this issue, the motoring public will continue to be put at great risk in rollover accidents. Some automakers – Volvo, Saab, and Suburu, for example – produce models that offer greater protection in roof crush rollovers than the protection offered by this long-overdue anemic standard that NHTSA is about to issue.
The federal government, at the very least, should mandate the best practice in the industry. NHTSA was created in the 1960s to establish technology forcing life-saving safety standards for motor vehicles. The agency has now become little more than an extension of the motor vehicle manufacturers. As a result, when it comes to regulation at NHTSA, it’s a classic example of the “tail wagging the dog.” Only citizen pressure can turn this agency around and set it on its original statutory mission. But Congress must be involved to make this happen. Congress can make NHTSA do right, but that will happen only if public opinion and the resulting pressure forces its members to get involved.
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