Will Maryland Auto Injuries be Reduced by New Federal Roof-crush Standards?

Deaths and injuries in Maryland, as well as across the country, caused by collapsed SUV and passenger car roofs as a result of vehicle collisions and rollover accidents could be reduced in the future thanks to new federal government requirements for greater roof-crush protection. For the first time in more than 30 years, automobile manufacturers will have to engineer their vehicles’ roof and body structures to meet a higher standard — the roofs of future vehicles will have to bear three times the curb weight of a vehicle.

Nearly a decade in the making, will this new requirement save the lives of auto accident victims? Unfortunately, the rules only cover vehicles with gross vehicle weight ratings up to 6,000 pounds (curb weight plus maximum passenger and cargo weight), which will leave out some full-size SUVs and pickup trucks. Still, it is a step in the right direction to reduce vehicle injuries.

Our experience as Maryland Auto Accident Attorneys tells us that there will always be accidents that threaten the lives and well-being of drivers and passengers. At Lebowitz–Mzhen, LLC, our skilled legal professionals have seen the results of roof crush injuries and deaths. We can only hope that the new standards will make a difference.

Based on the previous, three-decade-old standards, a vehicle’s roof was required to withstand a force equal to only 1.5 times the vehicle’s curb weight, but NOT TO EXCEED 5,000 pounds. This last point was the fatal flaw in the old standard, especially for victims of rollover accidents and other vehicle crashes where the roof collapsed into the passenger space. This type of structural failure during a vehicle accident can cause great bodily harm, including traumatic brain injury.

Over the years, the mass of SUV’s, light trucks and other passenger vehicles has increased, while the 5,000-pound maximum has remained unchanged. Comparing the old standard to the new, the roof of a current 3,700-pound SUV is required to hold up under a maximum of 5,000 pounds, even though 1.5 times the curb weight is 5,550 pounds. Under the new standard, with no maximum, the roof of a future 3,700-pound SUV will be required to withstand 11,100 pounds of force — more than twice the previous 5,000-pound maximum.

Also of benefit will be a change in testing procedures. The new standards call for crush pressure to be applied first on one side and then the other side of the roof. According to reports, some safety advocates have for years asked for a two-sided test, arguing that it better duplicates what happens when a vehicle rolls. In a roll, pressure is applied to one side, weakening the roof. Then, as the roll continues, more pressure is applied to the other side.

Government Improves Roof-Crush Standards, NewYorkTimes.com, May 5, 2009

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