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New Rules Coming To Reduce Rollover Ejections

Posted in Car Tech, General, Newsworthy, Safety by Kurt Ernst | January 16th, 2011 | 6 Responses |

Turn your back on the NHTSA for a minute, and look what happens: new regulations get passed that will (in theory) increase vehicle safety, and will certainly increase vehicle cost. NHTSA research shows that passenger ejections in rollover accidents generally happen through the first row windows, and in cases of first row ejections are fatal in 29% of accidents. Windshield ejections are the next most common, but these occur with much less frequency than side window ejections. When windshield ejections happen, they’re fatal in 37% of accidents. Simply wearing a seatbelt virtually eliminates the likelihood of ejection in all but the most severe accidents, but we can’t assume people will comply with seatbelt laws; hence, we need legislation to protect drivers from themselves.

By the end of 2013, new cars will need to have improved side curtain airbags and perhaps even enhanced side window glazing. Side curtain airbags will need to provide additional coverage, will need to be made from a higher tensile strength material and may even be required to have both a top and bottom anchor point. These changes may keep you from being ejected out a side window, but they’re not going to do much to mitigate injury if you’re unbelted in a tumbling car.

The NHTSA estimates that implementing these changes will cost $31 per vehicle (in 2009 dollars), but I’m skeptical. Automakers will need to completely redesign airbag systems, from the material used in the bags themselves all the way to the size of the propellent charge. If dual anchoring is required, chances are good that doors will need strengthening to accommodate the lower tethers. If changes to window glazing are required, that adds further cost, and all the mandated changes will add weight to vehicles at a time when manufacturers are struggling to save every ounce to boost fuel economy. The net result of all these changes, according to the NHTSA, is the prevention on 373 fatalities and 476 serious injuries. I’m for nearly anything that makes cars safer, but aren’t we missing the obvious here? Until drivers buckle up, each and every time they get behind the wheel, we’re still going to have needless fatalities and injuries.

If you want to read the entire 310 NHTSA brief, you can grab it here: Ejection_mitigation_FR_Jan2011.

Source: Autoblog

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6 Responses

  1. Mark Smith says:

    So, we are doing this to save a little under 1,000 idiots who can’t obey the current laws? Another case of an agency looking to justify it’s existence. The risk/reward equation here just doesn’t balance.

  2. Set says:

    Mark, I couldn’t agree more. This is just allowing stupid people to get into another accident.

  3. Kurt Ernst says:

    Mark and Set, agreed 100%. Welcome to the new reality of building cars for the lowest common denominator.

  4. 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.: http://sites.google.com/site/getoutaliveorg/.

  5. Kurt Ernst says:

    Mary, thanks for commenting. I’ll admit that’s something I hadn’t considered, but immersion drownings happen all the time here in FL. More resilient side window glass certainly isn’t going to help.