The federal government will require automakers to have new safety features for side windows to keep occupants from being ejected from cars and trucks during rollover crashes. David Strickland, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, had this to say when making the announcement: “Rollover crashes are the deadliest of all crash types, and this is another important step in our efforts to reduce fatalities and serious injuries that result from them.”
NHTSA believes when fully implemented by model year 2018, the new rule will prevent an average of 373 deaths and 476 serious injuries every year. There were 8,267 deaths in rollover crashes in 2009, according to the latest data from the agency. The new rule applies to vehicles with a gross weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less, which includes cars and light trucks. It requires manufacturers to develop a countermeasure to prevent the equivalent of an unbelted adult from moving more than four inches past the side window opening in a crash.
NHTSA expects that manufacturers will meet the standard by modifying existing side-impact air bag curtains, making them larger to cover more of the window opening and more robust to remain inflated longer, and designing them to deploy in both side impacts and rollovers. The Transportation Department will begin phasing in the new standard during 2013. Not everybody in the automobile safety business agrees that the new rule is a good thing. The new rule “has relatively small costs and relatively small benefits,” said automotive safety expert John Graham, dean of the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University in Bloomington. He added:
If it is the case that the rule offers safety benefits primarily to unbelted occupants, as seems likely, I question whether this rule was a good use of the agency’s limited staff and engineering resources. Far more lives could be saved through a stronger agency focus on better enforcement of safety-belt use laws, a careful look into driver distraction issues, and vehicle crash compatibility standards to protect people when vehicles of different sizes collide.
The rule is part of the safety administration’s initiative to improve the overall safety of occupants in rollover crashes. The agency has already issued a rule requiring electronic stability control in all new vehicles and a more stringent standard to keep roofs from being crushed.
Source: USA Today
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