U.S. auto safety regulators are evaluating allegations that the Chevrolet Tahoe’s side-curtain air bags may not properly protect back-seat passengers in a rollover crash of the sport-utility vehicle. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is considering a petition filed by an engineer who investigated an August 2011 crash in which three children riding in the second and third rows of the Tahoe were ejected, and one died.
U.S. automakers, led by General Motors, recalled a record 64 million cars and trucks in 2014. General Motors’ recall of 2.59 million small cars to fix a faulty ignition switch led to congressional hearings, a legal agreement with unprecedented regulatory oversight and a criminal investigation. GM says it’s cooperating with NHTSA as the agency weighs opening a formal defect investigation. The automaker said it has investigated the complaint that is the basis of the petition and found “no defect trend.” Hopefully, GM is being truthful.
The petition relating to the Tahoe was filed in August by Donald Friedman, who is with Xprts LLC, a Santa Barbara, Calif., engineering consulting firm. He said the Tahoe’s air bags are untethered, unlike in some comparable SUVs, and its roof isn’t as sturdy, making it more likely that windows will shatter during a rollover. NHTSA said a preliminary check didn’t find any similar reports of occupant ejection in other Tahoes, or the GMC Yukon that has a similar design, from the 2007 to 2015 model years.
Nevertheless, NHTSA has decided to evaluate the issue to decide whether to grant the petition and open a formal investigation. The investigation covers the Tahoe from the 2010 model year, or about 58,000 vehicles.
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