AAJ Calls on New NHTSA Chief to Address Roof Crush Standard

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For Immediate Release: April 9, 2009

Contact: Jen Fuson
202-965-3500, ext. 609
media.replies@justice.org

AAJ Calls on New NHTSA Chief to Address Roof Crush Standard

Remove Preemption from Old Proposed Rule

Washington, DC–In response to the Obama administration naming Charles Hurley as the new administrator to head the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the American Association for Justice (AAJ) calls on the agency to quickly address the roof crush standard and ensure consumers have access to the courts when they have been harmed.

The current roof standard has been in place since 1973, before SUVs were a common mode of consumer transportation. The roof crush standard addresses the safety of vehicles’ roofs to withstand pressure when involved in rollover accidents.

NHTSA was required to deliver a roof crush standard to Congress by July 1, 2008, but was ordered by Congress to strengthen their proposed rule because it did not significantly reduce loss of life and prevent injury.  NHTSA asked for an extension until December 15, 2008, and then revised the date for issuing the final rule to April 30, 2009.

 “Under the Bush administration, NHTSA’s safety regulations often took a back seat to corporate profits.  We are confident the new NHTSA administrator will put safety as the number one priority, with the first order of business to finalize a strong roof crush standard,” said AAJ Director of Regulatory Affairs Gerie Voss.

The Bush administration proposed a roof crush standard that increased the ability of a roof to withstand a force equal to 2.5 times the unloaded vehicle’s weight, a standard already met by 70 percent of U.S. auto manufacturers.  The proposed rule would have saved an estimated 13 to 44 lives out the 10,000 persons that die every year in rollover crashes, less than one percent.  Industry experts said this standard did not go far enough because it would still result in killing or paralyzing most passengers in rollover accidents.

Against bipartisan wishes, the proposed rule also included preemption language that gave auto manufacturers immunity from lawsuits, leaving manufacturers little incentive to make automobiles safer.   The Bush administration also included preemption language in preambles to safety regulations for occupant crash protection, side-impact protection, school bus seating and other final regulations.  AAJ has called on the Obama administration to remove preemption language and give consumers the right to seek justice in the courts. 

“We urge NHTSA to come up with a final standard that will save more lives, prevent more injuries, and give citizens just recourse in the courts,” added Voss.

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