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Regulators Aim at Reducing Injuries, Deaths in Vehicle Rollovers

In the 1990s and early 2000s, Ford Motor Company and Firestone were linked to deadly rollover crashes involving Ford's SUVs and Firestone's tires.

Those crashes spurred the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and other federal government agencies to pursue safety measures to minimize deaths and injuries in rollover accidents.

Some of that effort was brought to fruition with the NHTSA's newly announced regulation requiring car manufacturers to enlarge side curtain air bags and reconfigure them to inflate in all serious crashes.

According to a report by Reuters, NHTSA administrator David Strickland said, "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."

The NHTSA estimates the mandated changes will cost manufacturers about $31 per vehicle, which adds up to approximately $400 million annually.

According to the report, rollovers cause about one third of all crash fatalities. About half of the deaths involve passengers and drivers being ejected from vehicles; most are ejected through the side windows.

The NHTSA claims the new regulations could prevent about 370 deaths annually, as well as more than 470 serious injuries each year.

The auto industry must begin to implement the changes in 2013 and complete implementation by 2018.

Reuters reports that since the highly publicized Firestone tire flaws, makers of SUVs have redesigned the vehicles to give them a lower center of gravity. That shift in weight distribution was designed to reduce rollovers.

This new rule from the NHTSA should help to reduce injuries and deaths in those rollovers that do take place.

Resource: Reuters: "Automakers must reduce rollover ejections: U.S. government": January 13, 2011

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