Current Designs of Seat Beats Pose Danger In Rollover Crashes
The primary benefit of a seat belt in vehicle rollovers is to prevent ejection, yet in almost 20% of rollover accidents seat belts fail to perform as expected. Today, rollover fatalities involving vehicles account for a third of all vehicle accident deaths, a number that has increased due to the popularity of SUVs, pickup trucks, and light trucks (which are more prone to roll over than cars because of their higher centers of gravity and now account for more than half of all new vehicles sold).
Almost 2,000 of the over 10,000 persons that died in rollover accidents were wearing their seat belts, and about 1,000 of these persons were partially or fully ejected from the vehicle.
In SUV accidents where the SUV rolled over and the roof crushed, almost half of all deaths and injuries occurred to persons wearing seat belts. To counter evidence and criticism of the design of SUVs and pickup trucks as posing too great a risk of rolling over, automakers regularly claim that the drivers and passengers killed in rollovers died because they are not wearing seat belts. An analysis of government safety data and accident reports by the consumer protection group Public Citizen shows that this is not true. Almost 2,000 of the over 10,000 persons that died in rollover accidents were wearing their seat belts, and about 1,000 of these persons were partially or fully ejected from the vehicle.
Lack of Sufficient Government Regulation
In the 1960s, the federal government established the first standards for safety belts in motor vehicles, and at the time, rollover crashes were a small subset of crashes In its analysis, Public Citizen observed that there has never been a federal requirement that automakers test their seat belts to find out how they perform in rollovers. As stated by Joan Claybrook, who headed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration from 1977 to 1981, “Seat belts simply are not doing enough to protect vehicle occupants in rollover crashes. Ejection while wearing a seat belt should happen rarely, if at all.” Claybrook added,
“Seat structures are not designed to keep occupants in place during a rollover, and vehicle roofs are so weak that they collapse, crushing the heads and spines of occupants. … And finally, outdated, inadequate belt systems fail.”