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Rules to make roofs stronger rile automakers

Old 08-21-2006, 08:06 AM
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Default Rules to make roofs stronger rile automakers

So what is wrong with a stiffer roof?

Report: Rules to make roofs stronger rile automakers
Safety advocates counter that proposal is already too weak, call for more stringent

August 21 2006: 8:33 AM EDT
NEW YORK ( -- Proposed federal rules designed to make car roofs stronger in case of a vehicle rollover, already under attack as too lax by safety advocates, are now being criticized by automakers as too tough, according to a published report.

The Detroit News reports that both U.S. and overseas automakers are lobbying the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to loosen the proposed rules, exempt some vehicles and change testing procedures.

The paper says an estimated 7,000 people are killed or severely injured annually in rollovers in which the roof crushed.

But Charles Territo, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers trade group, told the paper the vast majority of rollover deaths are the result of occupants not wearing seat belts who are thrown from the vehicle, rather than the roof collapsing. He said safety features like electronic stability control that prevent rollovers are more important to saving lives than stronger roofs.

Even if the rules are adopted by the federal safety agency, they won't take effect until 2010, but the automakers say they won't be able to meet that timetable, according to the report.

Robert Lange, General Motors' (Charts) executive director of safety and structural integration, told the paper the company needed a "phase-in" of the mandate because the proposal "would overtax our technical and financial resources; and perhaps the capability of our supply base as well."

The automakers say NHTSA estimates that 68 percent of vehicles now being sold would meet the new rules are incorrect, that far fewer than expected would pass. The paper says the safety agency now agrees its estimate was too high.

But safety advocates were critical of both the performance of the automakers and the safety agency for not doing more to strengthen roofs.

The proposed rule is a "do-nothing" mandate that "will not address the pressing need to save thousands of lives from rollover crashes," Gerald Donaldson, senior research director at Washington-based Highway and Auto Safety, told the paper.

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