NHTSA Rule Aimed at Saving Lives During Rollovers

Putting rollover safety squarely in the front seat, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced a new rule that automakers must design technology that prevents passengers not wearing seatbelts from being ejected - specifically, not moving more than four inches past the side window - in the event of a rollover car accident.

"Rollover crashes are the deadliest of all crash types and this is another important step in our efforts to reduce fatalities and serious injuries that result from them," stated an NHTSA Administrator.

The NHTSA estimates that the new rule, once implemented, will "prevent on average 373 fatalities and 476 serious injuries every year." In 2009, rollover accidents killed 8,200 people. From 2000-2009, 47 percent of those fatally wounded in rollover accidents were ejected from the vehicle during the accident, and rollover accidents are 14 times more likely to kill passengers than frontal crashes.

According to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, "this new standard will help save lives and reduce injuries by requiring vehicles to have a safety system that keeps occupants in the vehicle in a rollover crash."

While the NHTSA rule leaves it up to automakers to develop and use technologies that achieve the ends set forth by the rule, the NHTSA speculates that rollover-sensing side airbags - which are already used by some automakers - or advanced safety glass could be used.

Estimated by the NHTSA to cost $31 per vehicle for a total of $507 million, the new rule will begin the phase in process in 2013 and by 2018 all new vehicles will be required to contain "ejection mitigation systems."