According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), each year in the United States, more than 280,000 rollover accidents are reported and more than 10,000 people die in rollovers. The NHTSA describes rollovers as “dangerous events,” not surprising given that in 2009, 35 percent of all auto accident fatalities occurred during light vehicle rollovers. Rollover accidents can be especially dangerous when occupant ejection occurs. According to the NHTSA, from 2000-2009, 47 percent of rollover deaths involved complete occupant ejection. Studies indicate that most occupant ejection occurs through a side window. In an effort to minimize rollover deaths, the NHTSA introduced new side airbag regulations in January 2011 intended to prevent occupant ejection through side windows.
A Look at the New Regulations
In accordance with the new regulations, car manufacturers will:
- Enlarge side curtain airbags
- Make side curtain airbags inflate longer
- Manufacture side curtain airbags so that they tether to the side pillars of the vehicle after inflation
As stated by the NHTSA, the purpose of the new regulations is to “reduce the partial and complete ejection of vehicle occupants through side windows in crashes, particularly rollover crashes.” Simply put, the improved side airbags are intended to better cover window openings, thus helping to prevent occupant ejection and reducing rollover deaths. Although these new regulations mark an improvement in vehicle safety, car manufacturers sometimes make design errors that have deadly consequences for vehicle occupants. When a manufacturer’s design flaw, negligence or use of a defective product leads to injury or death, an experienced Orlando injury lawyer can help victims fight for their rights and recovery.
Benefits and Cost of the New Regulations
The NHTSA has slated phase-in of the new side airbag regulations to begin in 2013, and by September 2017, all vehicles will be required to meet the new ejection mitigation standards. The agency expects the improved side airbags to save 373 lives and prevent 476 serious injuries annually. The estimated cost of implementing the new regulations is estimated at $31 per vehicle.
While the government continues to research ways to improve vehicle safety and minimize people’s risk of death or serious injury during certain types of crashes, such as rollovers, deadly accidents will continue to occur on U.S. roadways each day. Victims whose rollover injuries resulted from manufacturer error or another driver’s negligence may be entitled to compensation under the law and can contact a qualified Orlando injury lawyer to learn about their rights.