The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has said it will require auto manufacturers to significantly increase the strength of vehicle roofs to receive the agency’s top safety pick ratings. The Institute conducts several crash tests each year and encourages auto makers to add safety features to reduce auto accident injuries and fatalities. The IIHS ratings are widely used by consumers to evaluate vehicles and by auto makers in their marketing efforts. IIHS has said that they will now require auto makers to have a 4.0 rating to win a top safety pick. Our source for this blog was this news report in Detroit News.

A study that was released by IIHS this month reaffirms the widespread belief among consumer advocates and personal injury attorneys that a 1.0 increase in roof strength will reduce the risk of fatalities in a single-passenger rollover crash by over 20 percent. It will cost auto makers just a few hundred dollars per vehicle to make that change. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has put off adopting a new standard that requires auto makers to improve their vehicles’ roof strength. The current standard is more than 35 years old now, which is appalling considering that nearly 10,000 people die in only rollover accidents each year in the United States.

That number comes from NHTSA’s own statistics. But IIHS officials say that the NHTSA has undercounted the number of injuries and deaths that can be prevented by stronger roofs. The new roof safety standard has been delayed three times just in the last one year. Consumer safety advocates say that even the proposed standard simply will not protect consumers because it recommends a static roof crush test. That means that vehicles will be tested by being dropped when they are not moving. In the real world, as we all well know, rollover accidents occur at freeway speeds and obviously, as the vehicle is moving.

I commend the IIHS for taking this step and making improved roof safety mandatory for auto makers to receive a top safety rating. I hope this will motivate auto makers to step up and do what they should have done in the first place – make their vehicles safer. Our firm has represented several clients over the years who have lost loved ones or have suffered catastrophic injuries that have left them permanently disabled because of weak and defective roofs. This has got to change and I hope IIHS’ recent announcement will be the kick in the pants the auto industry needs.