While rollover resistance is improving, current vehicle roof strength regulations date back nearly 35 years. With that in mind, Congress will be taking a careful look at federal regulators as they work on upgrading the standards early next month before they unveil a final regulation at the end of July. Current standards require a vehicle under 6,000 pounds to withstand a force of 1.5 times the vehicle weight without crushing and striking the head of a belted average-size adult male. In August 2005, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed toughening that standard to 2.5 times the vehicle weight (and adding it should cover all vehicles under 10,000 pounds). Safety advocates, however, have argued that the standard should be 3 to 3.5 times the vehicle weight.
According to the NHTSA, increasing the crush resistance to 3 times the vehicle weight would cost automakers at least $1.1 billion more that it would to meet the 2.5 standard. Automakers have shown resistance to the proposals too. They have asked for more time to comply with the toughened rules, and that some vehicles (such as the Jeep Wrangler) be exempt. They have also pointed out that increased roof strength means added weight -- counterproductive in their continued efforts to meet stringent fuel economy standards.