Good Georgia Lawyer continues its multi-part series on SUV Rollovers:
The Auto Industry’s Refusal to Acknowledge The Need for Two Sided Rollover Testing was shown in the following:
The auto industry has consistently denied the need for an appropriate two sided test. The rollover tests selected by General Motors are “deliberately designed to avoid measuring roof crush. In one test, the vehicle is driven on a ramp, and then tips onto its side. This test can be used to evaluate the deployment of side curtain airbags, which General Motors has publicly announced it will be installing in all its vehicles by 2012, but fails to provide any information about roof crush.”
Additionally, Ford also has conducted dolly rollover tests of the Ford Explorer yet the vehicle never fully inverts, and “so the test fails to realistically represent a rollover crash.” Nissan also recently “announced publicly that it has developed an apparatus that is capable of fully inverting a car” and “the stated purpose of this apparatus is to test seat belt performance.”
The Auto Industry’s Refusal to Acknowledge The Dangers of Roof Crush:
For more than three decades the auto industry led by General Motors, has conducted a campaign to convince the courts, NHTSA, and the public that “there is no relationship between roof strength and the likelihood of occupant injury given a rollover.” Lena Pons, policy analyst at Public Citizen writes that in terms of litigation the auto industry was able to draw upon “considerable financial resources to stage expensive and impressive tests, e.g. the Autoliv Ford Explorer tests, analyzed by Exponent. This science for hire makes litigation often a battle of experts, which often puts plaintiffs at a disadvantage.”
For example, two studies sponsored by automakers, one in 1995 and the other a decade later, found no relationship at all between roof strength and injury risk in rollovers. Findings of the first study motivated General Motors to send out a press release to the The Detroit News in 2002 stating: “Good science, long established and well reviewed in the technical literature, has conclusively demonstrated that there is no relationship between roof strength and the likelihood of occupant injury given a rollover.”
Four years later, Ford stated to the government that “substantial and compelling real-world crash data and laboratory testing have confirmed that simply increasing roof strength will not measurably reduce the risk of injury or death to vehicle occupants in rollovers.” GM’s actual study involved an “extensive two-part test program, referred to as Malibu I (unrestrained occupants) and Malibu II (fully belted occupants), that it claimed supported its thesis” arguing the illogical, absurd stance that fatalities occurred from passengers “diving” into the roof upside down rather than the roof crushing into their heads. However, although GM published and presented research papers making the claim that there was no link between roof strength and occupant injury, it would not release the underlying data and film until forced to do so in a major lawsuit.
Analysis of the “extensive data, film and analyses of the Malibu tests has demonstrated that, in fact, roof crush is directly related to neck injury, which occurred only in tests of production roof Malibus.” Film of these tests show definitively “how these injuries are a direct result of the roof failures and that when the roofs are strong, with roll cages, the test dummies in the vehicles indicate the potential of only minor to moderate injuries from which an individual would fully recover.” And the auto industries effort to promote the so-called “diving theory” (that passengers were breaking their necks from diving into the roof rather than the roof crushing into them) has been discredited as a hoax.
Despite the auto industry’s refusal to acknowledge the dangers of roof crush and continued attempts to obfuscate the evidence, clear objective studies have worked to resolve the controversy. In the March 15, 2008 a study was conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the results confirmed in a Status Report conclusively showed the serious consequences of roof crush along with the ration of roof strength to injury. In the words of the Institute’s President, Adrian Lund: “What we do know from the study is that strengthening a vehicle’s roof reduces injury risk, and reduces it a lot.”
So in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence proving the dangers of SUV rollover roof crush and the imperative need for two sided roof rollover testing–why do automakers continue to resist? Experts believe that “this indifference to high SUV collision risks allowed the manufacturers to reap billions of dollars in SUV profits while thousands of motorists with no feasible way to protect themselves were unnecessarily killed or injured.”
Lena Pons, policy analyst at Public Citizen explains: “The automakers have built a long record in litigation building the argument that roof strength is unrelated to occupant injury in crashes. The ‘diving theory’ for example, is a complex argument meant to provide an appearance that rollover crashes are violent, unpredictable events, and that occupants cannot realistically be protected. To change course and build vehicles with strong roofs, the industry would potentially open itself up to challenges in thousands of rollover cases.”