Statement of Clarence Ditlow on CAS Dynamic Roof Crush Tests

The Center for Auto Safety is the nation’s premier independent, member driven, non-profit consumer advocacy organization dedicated to improving vehicle safety, quality, and fuel economy on behalf of all drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.

Since 1970, the auto industry has fought efforts by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to issue a dynamic roof crush standard that protects occupants in rollover crashes. During that time, the number of deaths to occupants in rollover crashes climbed from less than 3,000 to over 10,000 each year while total occupant fatalities declined from 43,200 to 33,300. Although the federal courts have upheld the dolly rollover test as a reliable dynamic test, NHTSA has stuck with the ineffective, quasi-static roof crush standard issued in 1971 even though it was to be phased out by 1977. In the other major crash modes, front and side impacts, NHTSA has issued effective dynamic crash test standards that have reduced death and serious injury in those crash modes.

Today, we are announcing the results of dynamic roof crush tests on the Jordan Rollover System (JRS) sponsored by the Santos Family Foundation on Volvo XC90s donated by State Farm. Ford has obtained Protective Orders in 24 courts prohibiting the public from seeing what we released today dynamic roof crush tests that show Volvo XC90 occupants escape serious injury in multiple rollover crashes while Ford Explorer occupants suffer serious injury. In a multiple two roll test, the maximum roof intrusion in the XC90 was only 2.6 inches and the peak roof intrusion velocity was less than 4 miles per hour. In contrast, the Explorer had maximum roof intrusion of 11.5 inches and peak roof intrusion velocity of nearly 12 miles per hours which exceeds known thresh holds for death or serious injury.

Examination of actual accidents from NHTSA’s NASS system shows only one Volvo XC90 in a rollover crash. Like the XC90 in our JRS test, this Volvo had minimal roof intrusion and the two occupants suffered no serious injury. In sharp contrast, the NASS files revealed multiple case of severe roof crush in other vehicles that tested poorly in the JRS. After 35 years of increasing rollover fatalities due to weak roofs and weak standards, its time to issue a dynamic roof crush standard using the JRS to match the lifesaving dynamic standards NHTSA has for front and side impacts.