After many years of lawsuits by plaintiff lawyers against auto manufacturers for improper and inadequate side-impact protection, the Department of Transportation has finally taken steps to mandate higher passenger safety. Better late than never. Here is the DOT statement:
U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters today announced new side impact safety requirements for all passenger vehicles. It is expected that the upgrade, developed by DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), will save hundreds of lives every year. The new standard requires auto manufacturers – for the first time ever – to provide head protection in side-impact crashes. It also would enhance other protections for passengers involved in such crashes.
“This new standard will spare hundreds of families from losing a loved one in a side- impact accident, and will forever raise the bar on safety for drivers and passengers across America,” Secretary Peters said.
Side-impact passenger vehicle crashes are a serious – and frequently severe – safety problem on the nation’s roadways. Side impact crashes account for 28 percent of all fatalities, the majority of which involve a brain injury. NHTSA estimates that the new requirements will save over 300 lives and prevent nearly 400 serious injuries per year.
For the first time, a dummy representing a small adult female will be used in side-impact performance testing. A new and more technically advanced dummy representing an adult male of average height will also be used in crash testing.
“With these rigorous new requirements, we are building on the strength of innovative and life-saving side impact technologies that are already available to many new car buyers,” NHTSA Administrator Nicole R. Nason said.
While NHTSA does not require specific technologies to meet its new performance requirements, manufacturers likely would meet this upgraded rule with various types of innovative head, chest and pelvis protection systems, such as side curtain air bags and thorax air bags.
Issued today by NHTSA, the new rule will require that manufacturers begin equipping all vehicles with improved side-impact protection that meets the federal standard, beginning with a phase-in schedule that starts in 2009.