By David Thomas on February 5, 2009
Over the past few years, there has been great debate between automakers and the government about beefing up roof-strength standards on cars and SUVs. Now, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has announced it will add a new rating to its array of crash tests specifically to rate roof strength. The new Roof Strength Rating will measure the amount of force placed on a roof to crush it 5 inches. The ratings will follow IIHS’ current scale of Good, Acceptable, Marginal and Poor. IIHS will begin the tests this spring and make them part of cars’ eligibility for Top Safety Pick status for all 2010 vehicles.
This is a significant step in the battle over roof strength. While rollover accidents make up only 3% of all accidents, they account for nearly one-third of all traffic fatalities, leading to 10,000 deaths annually. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is raising its standards for roof strength as well, to two and a half times the weight of the vehicle. IIHS’ top score would be four times the weight of the vehicle.
“We’ll be using the same evaluation method as the federal government,” IIHS spokesman Russ Rader said. He said he also expects the current number of Top Safety Picks, 72, to go down significantly once the agency rolls out the new tests.
Rader says the four-times-the-vehicle-weight rating was chosen because of IIHS research that showed it would lead to a 50% reduction in fatalities in single-car rollover accidents versus the current one-and-a-half rating, and a 35% reduction compared to NHTSA’s new rating of two and a half.
Consumers will be able to find the new scores alongside current crash test ratings for front, side and rear impacts on the IIHS website.
The government has done some preliminary tests on certain models, and you can find which ones will meet or exceed new IIHS standards below. Manufacturers eager to say these new standards will cost too much or add too much weight to vehicles will have to explain how the five automakers below managed to do it already, some since 2003.
*Current IIHS Top Safety Pick
Managing Editor David Thomas has a thing for wagons and owns a 2010 Subaru Outback and a 2005 Volkswagen Passat wagon. Email David