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Risky Rides
KPHO Phoenix - News5

American automakers relish the popularity of SUV's and pick-ups and warn drivers of their rollover risk when appropriate. But experts say there is another hidden danger, inches above those riding inside.

A risk some insist Americans shouldn't be forced to take.

Former Ford Executive Peter Bertelson told CBS 5 News, "You can't admit there's something wrong with your bread and butter product."

We're talking about a phenomenon called "roof crush."

Safety expert Steve Forrest says, "The public just doesn't comprehend the issue and how much they're exposed to injury."

"The reality is the roof on the SUV is no better ,and sometimes worse than the roof on a passenger car. And yet it weighs maybe twice as much," says Steve Forrest.

And he should know - the Santa Barbara engineer and safety expert has conducted his own strength tests on SUV's like a stock Ford Explorer.

The end result of an explorer dropped from just 12 inches off the ground, was the loss of nine inches of headroom over the drivers seat... enough damage to cause serious injury.

Now compare that damage to a Ford Explorer that has the roof re-inforced by Forrest's team before being dropped from 12 inches above the ground.

Forrest says, "The roof has to be much stronger if your vehicle is much heavier. It's really that simple, and that's not the case with most SUV's."
Forrest says not only is there a correlation between roof strength and occupant safety...But auto manufacturers have known about it for more than 30 years.
Steve Forrest says, "When you look at the facts, they're just outrageous."
This 1968 Ford Motor Company memo obtained by the Five I-team clearly states "People are injuried by roof collapse. The total number of nationwide deaths and injuries cannot be estimated but it is a significant number."

According to the federal government, each year some seven-thousand people are killed or severly injured in rollovers where the roof collapses... Despite the numbers, the independant tests and internal memos, U-S Auto Manufacturers still refuse to PUBLICLY admit a correlation between the strength of a vehicle's roof, and the safety of those inside.General Motors tells the Five I-team, "The roof crush is not the primary cause of injury." According to Ford, "Simply strengthening the roof won't improve the safety of SUVs in rollovers." And DaimlerChrysler says it is "analyzing injury data related to rollovers and roof strength to better understand the mechanics of such injuries..." Not one of the big three would appear on camera.

Bertelson says, "They almost have to say that."

But what is most surprising to some, U-S auto manufacturers ARE producing vehicles with much stronger roofs - overseas. Consider the Volvo XC... an S-U-V with roof strength three-and-a-half times its weight. Volvo is a Ford subsidiary... one that is conducting more difficult strength tests than its u-s counteparts, and building to higher standards. So is Merecedes-Benz - - it's owned by DaimlerChrysler. Same goes for Opel - owned by G-M. They do it by using high-strength steel in key locations... like the "A-Pillar" and "Front Header..." modifications safety experts say can cost as little as 20-dollars per car.
Forrest says, "That 20 dollars a car is the price you'll pay for being a quadraplegic or not being a quadraplegic."

If you now have doubts about the safety of your roof, ask your dealer for hard data about the "strength-to-weight" ratio. If they tell you they "exceed federal standards"... our experts say that's not enough... instead you need a three-to-one ratio to adequately survive a rollover... Look for car makers who brag about survivability - and have the stats to back it up.

Full Uncut Article Here

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