After 18-year-old Liza Hankins was thrown through the closed sunroof of her sport-utility vehicle during a crash and paralyzed, her family sued the truck’s maker, claiming it had failed to live up to its safety responsibilities.
The carmaker, Ford, won the case after it pointed out that no government regulations required a sunroof — even a closed one — to keep someone inside a vehicle in a crash.
Today, more than a dozen years after Ms. Hankins’s crash, there are still no government regulations meant to prevent the hundreds of sunroof ejections that happen every year — even as more buyers are ticking the box for the sunroof option and more carmakers are stretching the size of the glass overhead with larger, panoramic sunroofs.
Some automakers have already taken steps to make sunroofs safer by using laminated safety glass, while gadgets now in the works could help limit sunroof ejections during rollovers. And a new test created by researchers at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration could mean the federal government is laying the groundwork for regulations governing sunroofs.
“We know that there are fatalities and injuries,” said Cathy Chase, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. “And it is a solvable problem.”
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