NHTSA to require two latches on sliding van doors

What's $7 when a child's life might be at stake? That's the apparent message from the NHTSA to carmakers that build vehicles with sliding doors -- basically minivans. On Tuesday the NHTSA announced that these types of vehicles will now require a secondary latch to help prevent sliding doors from popping open in an accident and potentially expelling occupants. Nearly half of the 1.4 million vans sold in 2003 would be affected. Statistics on unbelted motorists being ejected from a vehicle are cited as reasons why this move is necessary. According to the Detroit News, 54,000 people are ejected in accidents each year, 15% through doors. That resulted in 20 deaths and 30 serious injuries annually from 1995 through 2003, the period under investigation.

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[Source: Detroit News]

The NHTSA believes seven lives will be saved (and 4 serious injuries prevented) each year by adding the secondary latch, which they think should cost just $7 to fit to the sliders. And seeing as how children tend to make up the bulk of the rear seat passengers, this is really aimed at protecting them. Sentimental enough for you yet? While we would never question the judgment of the NHTSA or risk endangering motorists (especially children), and the price of the secondary latch seems a pittance, we'll point out here that even at $7 a pop, that's another $8.4 million minivan makers will have to cough up each year. And automakers have already complained that "major structural modifications to B-pillars and doors" will also be necessary to meet the requirements.

We'll now take this opportunity to note that the stats seemingly refer to UNBELTED passengers. Draw your own conclusions about parents leaving unbelted children in the back of their minivans, and where personal responsibility lies.

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