When a vehicle rolls over, one of the critical components in assuring the safety of its occupants is the roof structure and its ability to protect, not injure its occupants. On the heels of nearly $250-million dollars in judgments relating to injuries caused in rollover accidents, Ford Motor Company has considerably stepped up its efforts to assure the roof strength of its vehicles.

A new standard proposed by NHTSA in August, 2005 raises the minimum force withstood by a roof structure from a multiple of 1.5 to 2.5 times the vehicle's weight while maintaining sufficient head room for a buckled-in average size adult male to avoid being struck by a crushed roof. Unfortunately, a final ruling could take as long as a year and would give the manufacturers until at least 2011 to comply.

In a letter to the NHTSA, Ford's director of automotive safety office, James P. Vondale, disclosed that some versions of 11 models would have roofs 20 percent stronger than required. For instance, the Expedition and Navigator, as well as some F-250 and E-series models would exceed the standard, matching the Volvo XC90, which has one of the strongest roofs on the market.

Follow the jump for more info and a list of the 11 models from Ford that will receive stronger roofs in the near future.

[Source: The Detroit News]

Congrats to Ford for stepping up and going above and beyond. The real issue is why does it take so long for these things to happen and why wait for a lawsuit to make a change? Wouldn't it have been cheaper to spend the $250 million on stronger roofs before the lawsuits and avoid the negative publicity they bring?

11 Ford models that will soon achieve roof strengths that meet or exceed the NHTSA proposed mandate of 2.5 time a vehicle's weight and their projected strength:

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