Consumer Groups Unveil Dynamic Auto Roof Crush Test
WASHINGTON, DC -- December 29, 2006 -- A new auto roof crush test can simulate real life conditions and show what would happen in a vehicle rollover accident, according to the consumer groups Public Citizen and the Center for Auto Safety. They presented videos of the Jordan Rollover System (JRS), a device that mounts a vehicle on an axis and allows it to roll. The roadway is run beneath the vehicle as it is rotated, and the roof makes contact with the road. The JRS device is unlike equipment used in tests run by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to test roof crush resistance. Those tests are mainly static.
Rollover accidents claim the lives of about 10,000 Americans per year and injure another 16,000. Auto manufacturers have claimed that crushed roofs are not the cause of injuries in these rollover accidents. Consumer groups maintain that not only are crushed roofs the major factor in rollover deaths, but that the auto industry can manufacture stronger roofs that would protect drivers and passengers. A car roof is very important when a rollover accident occurs, the groups say. If the roof collapses, windows may shatter and passengers may be ejected from the vehicle. Also, if the roof intrudes into the car space, the passengers could be crushed.
Using the JRS test, the consumer groups checked the roofs of the Volvo XC90 SUV, the Ford Explorer and other vehicles. The Volvo XC90 performed well, but the Ford Explorer did poorly. Specifically, the maximum roof intrusion in the XC90 was only 2.6 inches and the peak roof intrusion velocity was less than 4 miles per hour. However, the Explorer had maximum roof intrusion of 11.5 inches and peak roof intrusion velocity of nearly 12 miles per hour, a result that shows potential for serious injuries and deaths (Clarence Ditlow, Executive Director of the Center for Auto Safety). Other tests performed on Volvos also showed the superiority of the car's roof. However, after Volvo was purchased by Ford in 1999, the Ford company squelched any release of these results.
The director of the Center for Auto Safety has written a letter urging the NHTSA to adopt a stronger roof strength standard and to use dynamic tests such as JRS to measure roof crush resistance. The letter, which also cites Volvo test results and other details about auto safety, is posted on the Center for Auto Safety web site. You will need to obtain a copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader to open these files. If you do not already have this software, you may download a free copy at the Adobe Acrobat web site.
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