Stiffer regulations regarding roof strength standards from the U.S. Department of Transportation originally due in July are expected to see the light of day in December, the agency said.
In January, the department issued a proposed modification of the roof-strength standard to request public input on whether both sides of a vehicle roof should be tested and meet minimum forces. If adopted, the two-sided testing would require manufacturers to design vehicle roofs that withstand at least 2.5 times the weight of the vehicle on both sides of the roof rather than testing just one side, as a proposal announced in August 2005 would require. The proposed roof strengthening would apply to vehicles weighing up to 10,000 pounds. About 80 percent of vehicles already meet the proposed standards, according to several safety advocacy groups.
Nicole Nason, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), said in January that the earlier roof crush proposal was being amended because extensive research conducted since August 2005 indicates that the double-sided testing procedure is now a viable alternative approach to improving vehicle roof strength.
The modified regulations, which had a July 1, 2008 deadline, will now be issued by Dec. 15, according to the transportation department
U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters noted that although rollover crashes constitute a relatively small number of overall crashes, they account for a disproportionate number of deaths approximately 10,000 a year.
She stated that the amended roof crush proposal is part of a comprehensive program to reduce rollover fatalities and injuries, and includes mandating new technologies such as electronic stability control, which can save an estimated 9,600 lives a year, and stronger door locks. Peters says that using seat belts remains the most effective way to prevent fatalities and injuries in all types of crashes, including rollovers.