Neither automakers or safety advocates, two groups that usually find little common ground, are in favor of new federal roof strength standards proposed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Adminstration that would require a vehicle's roof to withstand 2.5 times the vehicle's weight.
The NHTSA claims that the new standards would save up to 44 lives per year and prevent up to 793 injuries. The Detroit News reports that an estimated 7,000 people are killed or injured in rollovers where the roof is crushed, so the new standards' potential for saving lives are being criticized as woefully inadequate by safety advocates.

Meanwhile, automakers are arguing from the other side that there's no way they'll be able to meet the proposed 2010 deadline for when the rules would go into effect. Not only that, but the estimated cost of meeting the new standards would be extremely high during a time when big automakers like GM and Ford can hardly afford the expense. Automakers argue in their own defense that stronger roofs are not the answer anyway, but rather that advanced safety technologies like Ford's Roll Stability Control do more to prevent rollovers.

The NHTSA is also being accused of using inaccurate testing procedures for determining a vehicle's roof strength. The administration has already backtracked on its earlier claim that 68 percent of vehicles currently produced could pass the new standards, and automakers are claiming the percentage is significantly lower.

In any case, the current roof strength standards have been in effect for 35 years. As other safety rules have been updated and become more stringent, roof strength standards have remained the same since they were implemented way back in 1971.

(Follow the jump for more details on the new proposed roof strength standards.)

[Source: The Detroit News]

Roof strength proposal
  • Would extend strength rules to all vehicles under 10,000 pounds; currently only vehicles up to 6,000 pounds are covered.
  • Would require that a vehicle roof withstand a force equal to 2.5 times the vehicle weight while maintaining sufficient head room for a buckled-in average size adult male to avoid being struck -- up from the current 1.5 times.
  • Rewrites testing procedures.
  • Prevents people from filing lawsuits under state laws as long as vehicles met federal standards.

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