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As the Obama administration named Charles Hurley the new administrator for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the American Association for Justice (AAJ) asked that that the agency put the roof crush standard first on their to-do list, and demanded that it work to ensure consumer access to the courts when auto injury occurs.

As the AAJ pointed out, the current roof standard, which addresses vehicles’ ability to withstand pressure when rollover accidents occur, hasn’t been changed since 1973, when SUVs weren’t yet common on the road. Congress gave NHTSA a deadline for a new standard of July 1, 2008, but then rejected NHTSA’s proposed rule due to its failure to significantly reduce injuries and/or loss of life. NHTSA requested an extension until December 15, 2008, which was subsequently pushed back to April 30, 2009.

Because the Bush administration’s proposed roof crush standard, which upped a roof’s ability withstand force to 2.5 times the vehicle’s standalone weight, was already being met by 70 percent of US auto makers, it would have only saved between 13 to 44 lives (or less than one percent) out the 10,000 who die each year in rollover crashes. Against the better judgment of both Democrats and Republicans, but not out of character for the Bush administration, the proposed rule also included preemption language bestowing immunity from lawsuits on auto manufacturers in the preambles to safety regulations for occupant crash protection, side-impact protection, school bus seating and other final regulations.

Industry experts said this standard did not go far enough because it would still result in killing or paralyzing most passengers in rollover accidents. “Under the Bush administration, NHTSA’s safety regulations often took a back seat to corporate profits. We are confident the new NHTSA administrator will put safety as the number one priority, with the first order of business to finalize a strong roof crush standard,” said AAJ Director of Regulatory Affairs Gerie Voss.

AAJ has called on the Obama administration to remove preemption language and give consumers the right to seek justice in the courts. –AAJ Newsroom

It’s a proverbial no-brainer. Create a safety standard that saves people’s lives and makes companies take responsibility for products that needlessly injure people.

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