New Car Roof Crush Standards set by DOT in 2009

Car Roofs Will Soon Be Strengthened

In a victory for car consumers, car roof crush standards will soon be strengthened. For many consumer groups and car accident lawyers, the move is long overdue and will avoid needless tragedies every year. More than 26,000 people are seriously injured or killed in car rollover accidents annually. As many as 12,000 die as a result of car rollovers. And injuries are usually catastrophic, including paralysis and brain damage. Regrettably, car manufacturers have argued for decades that strengthening car roofs will not improve safety. They insist that it's the force of the impact that causes occupants to "dive" into a car roof that results in injury and death, not the design of the car roof. But news accounts attributed to the Department of Transportation, indicated that the upgraded standard is expected to save 135 lives and prevent 1,000 injuries.

Previous Car Roof Crush Standards Lacking

Previous standards specified that car roofs had to withstand one-and-a-half times a car's curb weight, which could not exceed 5,000 pounds. As of 2009, under the new standard, the car roof must withstand three times the curb weight of the car, without the 5,000-pound maximum limit. Moreover, the pressure will be applied alternately to both sides of the car roof, a point safety advocates have insisted on for years. They reason that it more realistically simulates the tons of pressure applied in cascade to both sides as a car rolls. Regrettably, convertibles and cars with retractable hardtops are exempt from the new the standard.

New Car Roof Crush Standards Long Overdue

Car roof crush attorneys have long insisted that stringent new car roof safety standards will save lives and prevent needless injuries, adding that the added weight and dual-sided car crush tests have long been overdue. While they say this is certainly a step in the right direction, they claim more needs to be done to make cars and SUVs safer.

"These stringent new safety standards will save lives and prevent needless injuries," observed nationally recognized auto defects attorney Brian Chase. "The new 3-to-1 strength-to-weight ratio and dual-sided crush tests have long been overdue. This is certainly a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done to make cars and SUVs safer."

Many cars, trucks and SUVs will fall under the new car roof crush standards. This includes cars with a gross car weight up to 6,000 pounds--which is the car's curb weight, plus the maximum recommended weight of passengers and cargo. A number of heavier cars, like full-size pickups and SUVs that exceed the 6,000-pound gross car weight are excluded. Cars between 6,000 and 12,000 pounds gross need only withstand 1.5 times the car's weight. While not as safe as they could be, the new standards represent the first time heavier cars have had to meet any roof-strength standard.

Ramifications of New Car Roof Standards

Although NHTSA indicated that rollovers in these larger cars seldom result in a fatality, car roof crush lawyers note that any car designed primarily to carry passengers should fall under the higher car roof crush standard.

As far as timing, the mandate calls for the new car roofs to appear in September 2012, with the full fleet in compliance by the 2017 model year. The stronger roofs are expected to add about $54 to a car's overall cost, and $15 to $62 in fuel costs over the car's life (due to the stronger car roof's added weight).

"This new standard proves that consumer auto defects attorneys were right all along," said Brian Chase. "The car industry's position regarding roof strength has been misguided, driven by placing profit over people rather than focusing on safety."