NHTSA’s Further Delay on Long-Awaited Roof Crush Standard Unacceptable

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NHTSA’s Further Delay on Long-Awaited Roof Crush Standard Unacceptable 

For Immediate Release: October 2, 2008

Contact: Jennifer Fuson
202.965.3500, ext. 8369

AAJ Calls On Administration to Remove Preemption from Final Rule

Washington, DC—The nation’s agency dedicated to achieving the highest standards of excellence in motor vehicle and highway safety failed its mission once again by further delaying the final rule on roof crush standards, according to the American Association for Justice (AAJ). 

The final proposed rule did little to prevent more injuries and save lives, according to industry experts.  NHTSA admitted their proposed rule would have saved an estimated 13 to 44 lives out the 10,000 persons that die every year in rollover crashes, less than one percent.   Against bipartisan wishes, the proposed rule also included language that gave auto manufacturers complete immunity from all lawsuits, leaving manufacturers little incentive to make automobiles safer.  

“NHTSA had three years to develop a strong safety standard for roof resistance, but instead delayed and defended weak proposals already met by 70 percent of U.S. auto manufacturers,” said Weisbrod.  “Consumers deserve better.  We urge NHTSA to take the time to come up with a final standard that will prevent more injuries, save more lives, and give citizens just recourse in the courts.  Further delay should not further erode people the right to hold manufacturers accountable when they have made unsafe vehicles,” Weisbrod added. 

NHTSA was required to deliver a new roof crush standard to Congress by July 1, 2008, but was ordered by Congress to strengthen their proposed rule because it did not significantly reduce loss of life and prevent injury.  NHTSA asked for an ext. until October 1, 2008, but was then unable to complete the final rule and has now asked for a second ext., until December 15, 2008.  The Agency put forth two proposed rules, first in 2005, and again in 2008.   Both proposals were inadequate to Congress, who had ordered the new standard as part of the reauthorization of transportation funds in 2005.  The legislation allows for more time under exceptional circumstances.  

The current roof crush resistance standard has been in effect since 1973, well before SUVs were a popular consumer transportation option.  NHTSA’s proposal had increased the ability of a roof to withstand a force equal to 2.5 times the unloaded vehicle’s weight, but would still result in killing or paralyzing most passengers in rollover accidents.

The Administrative Procedure Act allows any new administration to stay any final rules that have been put forth 60 days prior to the start of a new administration.  For this reason, the Bush Administration has asked all final rules be complete by Nov. 1, 2008.  A final rule put out December 15, 2008, could be subject to such a stay.

Read AAJ's Comments Submited to NHTSA »

Read prior AAJ press releases on the topic »

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