New crash tests raise safety questions

September 10, 2008 6:13:46 PM PDT
New roof crash tests released by three auto safety and consumer groups are raising questions about the safety of many of the vehicles we drive. These groups are urging the feds to adopt tougher standards and testing.

Each year, about 10,000 people die in rollover fatalities in the United States. New regulations expected to be released in a few weeks will be designed to cut down on those deaths. But some fear the regulations won't go far enough.

A video released by the Center for Injury Research showed what happened after the group put six vehicles through its roof crush test.

Researchers say their results differed dramatically from results released by the federal government. All six vehicles passed federal government standards, but not in this test.

"This first roll bends the neck severely and in the second roll, the catastrophically greater intrusion of the roof probably results in the fatal bending of the neck," said Center for Injury Research President Donald Friedman.

The center found similar discrepancies when they tested the 2006 Hyundai Sonata.

"The Sonata has a sun roof that collapses inward in a dynamic test, strikes the occupant. That will not show up in the NHTSA static test," said Center for Auto Safety Director Clarence Ditlow.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration declined to comment for its story, saying it would be premature since its new standards had not been released.

But Honda did respond, calling the new test results inaccurate and misleading. Honda says the Ridgeline received one of the highest government and industry crash test ratings.

Current federal standards require the roof to withstand a force one-and-a-half time the vehicle's weight. The current proposal would increase that to two and a half time the vehicles weight.

"The roof crush standard that DOT will announce October 1will be a static test that offers minimal improvement of the current standard that took effect in 1973, and all those deaths have followed. This is unacceptable," said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook.

Other vehicles tested were the 2007 Pontiac G6, the 2006 Chrysler 300, the 2006 Toyota Camry and 2006 VW Jetta.

Related links and video:

  • 2006 Hyundai Sonata Roof Crash Test

    Statement from Hyundai:
    The 2006 Sonata has a strong roof and far exceeds the roof crush standards of the United States government. The 2006 Sonata has an excellent real-world safety record and has received the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) top five-star crash test rating for front and side impacts.

    The Jordan Rollover System (JRS) testing done by the Center for Auto Safety, the Center for Injury Research (CfIR) and Public Citizen is not based on reliable scientific principle and methodology. The test done on the 2006 Sonata was inaccurate and misleading. In fact, courts around the country have rejected JRS testing. U.S. District Court Judge Rodney Sippel rejected JRS tests, concluding that it is "Not based on reliable scientific principle and methodology."

  • 2007 Toyota Camry Roof Crash Test

    Statement from Toyota:
    Crash testing is performed, on many measures, by the government and other independent groups. Toyota also conducts ongoing internal comprehensive crash tests on all of its vehicle models, as part of our commitment to build safe cars and trucks. All of Toyota's vehicles meet or exceed the safety requirements of the federal government and NHTSA. Data from our internal crash tests have consistently reflected good ratings for the Camry.

  • 2006 Honda Ridgeline Roof Crash Test
  • Statement from Honda
  • 2006 Chrysler 300 Roof Crash Test
  • 2007 VW Jetta Roof Crash test

    The Alliance for Automobile Manufacturers represents: BMW, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Porsche, Toyota and Volkswagen.

    Statement:

    We support efforts that include a systems-approach to enhancing real-world safety in all types of motor vehicle crashes ? and that includes rollovers. We're voluntarily developing and introducing safety-related technologies that reduce injury risks if a rollover happens and we're doing the same with technology that helps keep vehicles on the road and reduces the risk of a rollover occurring in the first place.

    New technology includes electronic stability control; new types of air curtains that help keep occupants in the vehicle when rollovers occur; advanced safety belt technology such as pretensioners, which can help reduce occupants' motion within the vehicle; and seat belt reminder systems, which, by increasing seat belt use, can substantially reduce the risk of injuries and fatalities in rollovers.


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