Report Says Weak SUV Roofs Are Deadly

Posted: March 13, 2008

The Wall Street Journal reports, "An insurance industry study has found the strength of a vehicle's roof has a substantial effect on how well the vehicle protects occupants in a crash."  The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has conducted rollover testing on 11 midsize sport utility vehicles, and determined that "vehicles with the strongest roofs...corresponded with injury risks that are 39% to 57% lower than in those vehicles with the weakest roofs."  Approximately "35% of all occupant deaths occur in crashes that involve rollovers," and nearly 60% of those deaths "occur in SUVs."

Consumer Affairs notes, "The study claims that more than 200 deaths could have been prevented in rollovers in 2006 if just a few more SUVs had roofs as strong as the best one the institute tested."  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been working on "a plan to increase roof-crush standards" since August 2005.

According to Kicking Tires, "An automaker trade group representing GM, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota and six other companies calls the study flawed and is trying to prevent the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration from raising roof standards."

Autoblog adds, "At the top of the heap was the 2000-2004 Nissan Xterra that was able to withstand almost 12,000 pounds of force, while the lowest ranked vehicle, the 1999-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee, lost its head(room) after 6,500 pounds of force was applied to the roof."

The full report is available as a .pdf from the IIHS here.  The report notes that the Xterra's roof "crushed about two inches" during a rollover, while the Ford Explorer's roof "crushed ten inches, caving far into the occupant compartment."

The research the safety of sport utes on the current market, see U.S. News' rankings of SUVs.

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