Statement: Roof Strength
We have not yet had the chance to thoroughly analyze the study. It appears to be based on previous material prepared by Martha Bidez, which is seriously flawed, unscientific, and it misinterprets the data she is relying on.
Ford is committed to further improving the safety of its vehicles by advancing the state-of-the art in occupant protection using a variety of new technologies. We are continually developing innovative systems and technologies that can provide practical safety benefits for our customers. SUVs are safe vehicles for families and the data shows this.
Rollover events, real world crash data and a wide variety of rollover-type testing have been investigated and analyzed for many years. Despite these efforts, there continues to be misconceptions of basic rollover mechanics. Simply strengthening the roof won't improve the safety of SUVs and other passenger vehicles in rollovers. Years of testing show strengthening the roof will not affect the outcome of the crash for the simple reason that the injury mechanics are not related to how much the roof is deformed in a rollover crash. We've looked at injury and fatality rates in rollovers involving vehicles that just meet the Federal standard to vehicles that have roof strengths that are multiples of the Federal standard and there isn't a difference.
The best protection in an accident is the seat belt. The risk of injury is greatly reduced when occupants are belted. NHTSA data from its Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) shows that 81 percent of rollover fatalities involved unrestrained occupants. Safety belts remain the most effective technology in reducing the risk of serious injury or death in any type of accident.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers currently is funding a study on roof crush and injury experience in real world crashes. We look forward to working with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as it pursues its own assessment of real world crash data to determine what approach, if any, should be pursued in the area of roof strength.
Changes to federal roof strength standards must be based on facts and sound science, not the narrow agendas of special interest groups.
Dr. Jefferey Runge [Detroit News, April 12, 2004) Engineers have options for making better roofs."]
While the NHTSA hopes to update rule 216, Runge cautions that improving roof strength alone only will help in a fraction of rollover crashes.
That's why the agency is looking at new kinds of seat belts, technologies like side air bags and electronic stability control, along with a new roof-strength test.
"One single countermeasure isn't going to solve this problem," Runge said. "We have to look at the vehicle as a system."