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Ejections / Rollover Crashes Are Blamed for 10,000 Deaths Annually in the Past Decade in The United States – A New Approach Is Needed

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) expects manufactures to modify existing side curtain air bags to make them larger and deploy in all types of serious crashes, according to a regulation published on Thursday.

The ejection rule, which was years in the making, is the latest action by NHTSA to address rollovers since deadly crashes of Ford Motor Co sport utility vehicles linked to defective Firestone tires in the 1990s spurred congressional scrutiny and massive recalls.

"Rollover crashes are the deadliest of all crash types and this is another important step in our efforts to reduce fatalities and serious injuries that result from them," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland.

Carrying out the mandate would cost manufactures roughly $31 per vehicle, or $400 million based on total annual U.S. sales of 13 million cars and trucks, which is what the auto industry forecasts for 2011.

Rollovers represent about a third of all crash deaths and were blamed for an average of 10,000 fatalities per year over the past decade, according to government statistics. About half of those killed in rollovers are ejected and most are ejected through side windows.

Strickland said the new rule would prevent, on average, 373 deaths and 476 serious injuries annually.

Industry has two years to begin phasing in changes, which must be standard by 2017.


  1. Gravatar for Mary Kay Kidwell
    Mary Kay Kidwell

    NHTSA's ruling is intended to protect vehicle occupants who refuse to wear seatbelts. Not wearing seatbelts is a conscious decision by the vehicle occupants; NHTSA's own statistics have shown the great benefits of wearing seatbelts. While I agree that side air bags will save lives, it has been proven that stronger side window glass will render glass-breaking tools ineffective, thereby preventing escape during an entrapment situation.

    NHTSA's suggestion of stronger side windows will doom the occupants of the 10,000 vehicles that go into a body of water each year to a horrible death. The majority of the survivors of these accidents escape through a window, many of which must be broken in order to allow escape. For years an average of 300 drowning deaths occur among occupants of vehicle immersion, as well as others who are victims of entrapment. These victims would survive if they were able to break a side window. Enhanced glass will trap them in a watery grave.

    My awareness of this issue began when my grandson drowned in his car three years ago. Since then I have researched vehicle immersion and consulted with experts around the world who all agree that immediate exit via a side window is crucial to survival. Being able to break the side window glass is essential, but if automakers follow NHTSA's advice, everyone trapped in a vehicle will be prevented from escaping, and thereby surviving.

    My research shows that the majority of immersion survivors escaped through a window, in many cases by breaking the glass themselves or having help from a bystander. NHTSA has chosen to ignore me and other advocates, despite years of effort on the part of many concerned people. The glass industry has had NHTSA’s ear for a long time, and of course they would profit greatly from a change in auto glass requirements.

    Please contact me for more information and links to experts who have studied this issue for year and years (including Dr. Gordon Giesbrecht of Manitoba who has published his findings and demonstrated his immersion tests in videos that are available to the public). My web site also provides information, links, statistics, etc.:

  2. Gravatar for Larry Coben

    While there is little doubt that a risk of drowning is associated with design features making it more difficult to escape a submerged motor vehicle, the new Rule does not lead to more problems for that discrete risk. The "ejection regulation" allows manufacturers to select from a host of safety features to protect occupants (both belted and unbelted) from partial or complete ejection in side impacts and rollover accidents. The most effective system today is a well designed air bag curtain. In both side impacts and rollovers, because of how seat belts are now designed, there is a very real risk of partial ejection absent a well designed device to prevent this harm. Each of these risks can be effectively ameliorated without compromising yet another inherent risk.

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