Keeping Automakers’ Sales Truly Safe: The Edmund’s Conference

SRS was in attendance, Tuesday, as the cyber sales team at Edmund’s ushered in a “new chapter in the conversation between government, the auto industry, safety advocates, academics and consumers, marked by thoughtful, data-driven contributions from all.”

It was written amid cocktails and at more sobering and highly-scripted venues inside the Newseum, the 250,000 square-foot monument to journalism in Washington DC.  If Edmund’s is going to author the new chapter on safety, consumers beware.

In the conference brochure, Edmund’s CEO Jeremy Anwyl tells participants that the Toyota Unintended Acceleration crisis was the impetus for the meeting: “Edmunds.com watched as a shallow conversation made international headlines. We felt uneasy about the lack of real discussion taking place among smart people with the power to change laws, introduce technology and educate drivers.”

Roll Me Over – One More Time

The Society of Automotive Engineers resumed its ongoing boxing match over injury causation in rollovers at last week’s SAE Government Industry meeting. In Malibu’s corner was Wayne State and University of Michigan’s Transportation Safety Institute, presenting research supporting the theory of occupant diving as the mechanism of head and neck injury in rollovers – regardless of roof crush.

(For those of you who haven’t followed this 25-year-old scrum, Malibu refers to two sets of experimental rollover tests General Motors conducted in 1983 and 1987 on Chevrolet Malibus. Known as Malibu I and II, the tests were conducted to validate the theory that occupants don’t suffer head and neck injuries because the roof collapses on them, but because the force of the crash propels them into the roof. Over the years, automakers have clung to the Malibu results, despite crash data showing that the number of deaths and injuries in rollover accidents has risen disproportionately, with more than quarter of the accidents involving a serious roof intrusion.)

On the other side was NHTSA, arguing that roof strength is related to injury. It’s refreshing – if ironic – to see NHTSA champion a relationship between intrusion and injury. The agency is a late convert to this view; after years as an adherent of the Holy Gospel of Malibu.

Meanwhile, over at the Transportation Research Board’s Annual Meeting – also last week – research from less likely suspects supported the need for stronger roofs.

The New De Facto Roof Strength Standard? IIHS Raises the Bar

Reprinted from The Safety Record, V6, I1

WASHINGTON, D.C. - As the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's effort to write a new roof strength standard drags into its fourth year, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has gone ahead and created one that is far more stringent than anything the agency has proposed.

Beginning in 2010, automakers who want IIHS's coveted Top Safety Pick designation will have to build vehicle roofs with a 4.0 strength-to-weight ratio - far above the timid 2.5 ratio the government has been contemplating for its amended standard. The IIHS estimated that vehicles that could meet this new strength standard could reduce injury risk to occupants by 40-50 percent. In January, the insurance advocacy group informed manufacturers about its new requirement for vehicle roofs to win its highest honor. The industry greeted the news with the "can't-do" spirit that characterizes its reaction to nearly every safety improvement.

Dill Finally Launches Tire Valve Stem Recall

Reprinted from The Safety Record, V5, I6; Nov/Dec. 2008

OXFORD, NC-One year after a fatal crash and seven months after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched a defect investigation into 30 million Chinese-manufactured tire valve stems that could crack prematurely, Dill Air Control Products has finally announced a recall.

Senate Holds Hearing on Roof Strength; NHTSA Grilled on Pre-emption

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The chairman of the Senate Consumer Affairs, Insurance and Automotive sub-committee has urged the Secretary of Transportation to extend the July 1 deadline for a final roof crush rule and to drop the pre-emption clause from the regulation.

U.S. Views on Auto Safety are Schizophrenic

NOTE: The following article was published in Auto Monitor, August 16-31, 2007. Auto Monitor is India's largest auto industry trade news publication

It's difficult to find an advertisement for a vehicle in the U.S. that doesn't include safety claims. Multiple airbags, Electronic Stability Control, an alphabet soup of indecipherable acronyms, along with the prerequisite government five-star ratings - all seemingly indicate we are at the pinnacle of safety in America. Despite all of this hype, U.S. views on auto safety are schizophrenic: We allow our crash safety regulations, many of which were written decades ago, to significantly lag behind state-of-the-art and meanwhile more than 42,000 deaths that occurred on America's roads last year are given scant notice.

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