• Jan 26, 2008
Vehicle roof crush standards have not been significantly revised since 1971. The current requirements say one side of a vehicle's roof must support at least 1.5 times the total vehicle weight. However, the strength requirements reach a maximum at 5,000 lbs, whether or not the calculated standard is greater. The regulations also do not apply to convertibles or vehicles weighing more than 6,000 lbs. In 2005, a proposal was created to revise the requirement to 2.5 times the total vehicle weight on one side of the vehicle. Now that proposal has been altered, since NHTSA says it is feasible to distribute the test to press on both sides of a vehicle's roof. It has also been proposed to increase the standards to cover vehicles up to 10,000 lbs. An active rollover test is ruled out though, due to repeatability issues and lack of variable control. To appease Congress, NHTSA must put a revised standard in place by April 2009.

While updating safety standards is always a good thing, the issued statements relating to the proposal leave some questions. It is not stated whether the testing weight cap of 5,000 lbs will be increased along with the maximum tested vehicle weight. These days, many automobiles weigh in at upwards of 4,000 lbs. 2.5 times a 4,000-lb vehicle falls well above the 5,000-pound limit. There is also still no mention of convertible safety. Hopefully the full proposal is more detailed than the points touched upon in this piece.

[Source: Auto News, Sub. Req'd]


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  • 32 Comments
      • 7 Years Ago
      Hmm no need for my 6 point cage.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I despise government-mandated safety standards for cars.

      Even the most unsafe car is more safe than a motorcycle, and you don't see the NHTSA banning motorcycles.

      All these safety standards do is drive up prices, increase weight (which requries that cars have more power, thus reducing MPG), and kill consumer choice (expect convertibles to go away again, and expect Mercedes to pull the CL and CLK from the US).

      The US government has become a govno-ment.
        • 7 Years Ago
        you despise the gov,
        I'll despise the idiots doing 90+ in pickup trucks. If ever there was a vehicle build to crash it's the pickup.
        ALL pickup's should be computer maximum speed limited to 75 mph, then maybe we wouldn't need these safer car standards.
      • 7 Years Ago
      How about we just stop building tall, top-heavy SUV's? Why is the average sedan creeping close to being five feet tall? Besides being more prone to rollover, taller vehicles have more frontal area which increases aero drag.
        • 7 Years Ago
        I agree wholeheartedly. Tall cars suck.

        It's gotten to the point where I'm starting to admire every car with a low belt line I see, even if it's a complete crapbox otherwise. For example, the 1988-91 Honda Civic. Every time I see one, I marvel at the low belt line, even though everything else about that car is crap.
      • 7 Years Ago
      In many cases it seems standards are for some political gain or because it feels good, not because they do any real good. It almost seems those w/in NHTSA making the standards have no idea what they are doing.

      I'm not saying stronger roofs are a bad thing, but what's the real gain. How many lives and injuries vs. the cost; and might better results be achieved if those costs were applied elsewhere.

      And isn't what this is about, saving lives.

      It's almost like NHTSA is on some sort of power trip. If lives were saved at the rate NHTSA has stated for all their mandated safety regs there would be zero deaths per year. ...and didn't they say that 20,000 lives per year would be saved by the use of air bags? Figures are inflated to the point there is no way we as drivers can make informed decisions as to the best safety for the money. Then we end up paying for stuff that I personally believe has questionable results.
      • 7 Years Ago
      This is completely contradictory to CAFE, which wants automakers to concentrate on reducing weight to save gas.

      As for me, I would much rather drive a heavy, safe vehicle (with a nice and powerful V8 or V12), as I don't give a damn about fuel economy. Performance first, safety second, comfort/features 3rd, and fuel economy is no where in my list.

      I really think that CAFE should give concessions on its requirements if automakers exceed NHTSA safety guidelines, putting the safety of humans above a bunch of global warming, anti-capitalist lunatics.
      • 7 Years Ago
      A few people have mentioned that sales of convertibles might die after this (if it is applicable to them) and Mercedes in particular was singled out.

      I just wanted to point out that Mercedes, SAAB and many other convertible manufacturers already install pop-up rear roll bars on their convertibles as standard equipment. Additionally for any convertibles that don't offer that already (eg. MX-5), they would just need to strengthen the roll-over hoops provided.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Ironic that this entry should follow the article about the BMW/runway crash story: Work at it hard enough and you can do yourself in even with the latest in safety equipment.

      That said, no goverment regulation required disc brakes, radial tires, ABS, stability systems, brake assist, proportional braking...not to mention increases in vehicle rigidity with every generation of vehicle.



      And THA said, when is a car "safe enough"...? I don't mean that in a sarcastic way, but rather, there has to be some rationale in determining the standard, if one is to have one. The increases in rollover strength, for example, require a tradeoff between "safety" and cost. At some point we have to say it's too expensive to save those particular lives.

      You can't use the excuse of "if it saves one life." Resources are finite. We could require that every road vehicle be built to champ car standards, with carbon fiber tubs, etc. But we can't afford it. So some people will have to die. We could put four-point belts in cars, but that would discourage some people from wearing belts at all. We do have retractable belts in cars even though they offer less restraint than a fixed belt (ever see a race car with a retractable belt?).

      There are >always< tradeoffs. Only a lawyer wouldn't understand that (because he would hurt his income stream if he were to try). So why do we keep electing people who enable bureaucrats to come up with more rules that are (a) well-meaning and (b) justify their bureaucratic existence?
      • 7 Years Ago
      Often, the vehicles most prone to roll over are loaded heavily, making their center of gravity even higher and making the vehicle easier to roll. Evidently, these loads are not included in the tests or standards. Rollovers start when the tires stop and the body doesn't. If the C/G is high enough, you get dirty roof paint. If not, you just get dirty shorts. Convertibles rarely roll. Can you guess why?
      • 7 Years Ago
      Hmmmm. NHTSA passed a stability control rule that will phase-in by about 2011 or 2012. I think that's going to do a lot more to protect people in a roll over (by preventing it in the first place) than stiffer A&B pillars.

      Another case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing in government.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Geez, windshield pillars have gotten big enough already. Most of them nowadays are big enough that you can lose an entire pedestrian behind one. And that's a hazard, particularly for me, an urban pedestrian.

      I think we ought to take a holiday from adding weight adding requirements and let the automakers concentrate on reducing weight to meet CAFE requirements.
      HotRodzNKustoms
      • 7 Years Ago
      "I want a car that gets 200mpg has 2.5 times roof rigitity, 22 airbags, power everything, abs, seats 10, and I want it to move at a speed we Americans are used to, a 0-60 of no more than 7 seconds and a top speed of at least 140. And I don't want it to cost me any more than a Honda Accord." Dream on.

      Increasing roof strength for the most part is a ridiculous proposal because you will die from the G-Forces of that sudden stop, or hitting the roof, etc. It does more harm to the car consumer and industry than good.
        • 7 Years Ago
        @HotRodzNKustoms
        If you are a $90,000 buyer, would you be saying "Can I get $8000 off if I buy this Mercedes with the less rigid roof?"

        If you are a $20,000 buyer, would you want to be stuck with a car that is the modern day Ford Pinto?

        These standards keep U.S. consumers from being cheated, and for the businesses it is tough for them to lose the economic car market. Let them worry about making quality cars and cutting the price while not exploiting others. While raw material price is likely to go up, the efficnecy of manufacturing will only increase with technology improvements.

        HotRodzNKustoms, What g force? the only way you will get into that situation is if your car was dropped from the sky, upside down. No g force to the occupants if the car is rolled over, and no g force if a heavy object fall on the rool. Safety cage must be maintained. Think of it as street lights fall onto your car. If the roof crumbles on you, no amount of side or head airbag can save you.

        HotRodzNKustoms
        • 7 Years Ago
        @HotRodzNKustoms
        Henry, any change in direction, acceleration, or deceleration exerts g force thanks to something called inertia. A friend of mine was killed after a rollover years ago. The roof did not cave in but he hit his head so hard against said roof it separated his spinal cord. A stiffer roof would not have helped in any way shape or form.

        Plus many of us pay a premium for cars with less rigid roofs, they are called pillar-less coupes (ala CLK and CL and CLK conv. need I go on?) and convertibles.

        I just feel that these regulatory institutions need to allow the automakers to overcome the huge hurdles, such as CAFE, and then later we can worry about other things.
        • 7 Years Ago
        @HotRodzNKustoms
        Henry,

        Many people pay a _premium_ for a less-rigid roof. They're called convertibles.

        Funny you mention Mercedes, where the pillarless CLK has a huge premium over the C-Class.
      • 7 Years Ago
      More weight, more safety, lower fuel economy all for that nice comfy feel safe moment.

      Brought to you by our friends in Washington.
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