After Vehicle Roll-Overs, Properly Replaced Windshields Are Essential

America’s drivers have not been adequately alerted to the increasing frequency of rollover crashes and the danger these rollovers constitute to all vehicle occupants. According to the National Highway Traffic & Safety Administration (NHTSA), a total of 10,666 people died in rollover crashes last year, a 5 percent increase from the prior year.

While rollover crashes account for only 3 percent of all collisions, they result in 31percent of the fatalities. The reason behind this grim record is the high incidence of occupant ejection and head injuries. Many consumers have seen the media reports and believe the rollover danger is confined to certain sports utility vehicles (SUVs). If they don’t own such a vehicle, they assume they have no need to worry. That could be a very misleading and dangerous assumption.

The cost to society of rollovers is staggering. According to the NHTSA and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), Rollovers are the leading cause of fatalities in SUVs. In single vehicle crashes, 79 percent of the fatalities among SUV occupants involve rollover. Single-vehicle rollover crashes produced more than 50 percent of all occupant deaths in SUVs compared to 34 percent in pickup trucks and 19 percent in cars. (IIHS)

Is there an answer to reducing the carnage caused by rollovers?

All drivers, regardless of age, must recommit themselves to avoid driving aggressively. More consumer information would be helpful, especially a labeling and rollover rating system. New safety features designed to reduce rollovers would be valuable. However, the effectiveness of existing and future safety equipment will only be as valuable as the degree to which it is used or maintained in proper working order.

To this end, the states – as many have already done with mandatory seat belt legislation – must review their commitment to periodic motor vehicle inspection (PMVI). Without mandatory PMVI, the average consumer does not have the diagnostic equipment or expertise to assess their vehicle’s safety preparedness.

Proper replacement of damaged windshields is precisely such a problem area. The windshield is a crucial component in preserving the structural integrity of the vehicle‘s passenger compartment during rollovers. If a damaged windshield is not properly replaced and becomes dislodged from the vehicle during rollover, roof crush resistance may be compromised. The result could be serious head and neck injuries; failure of the passenger side airbag to deploy properly; or, even worse, the ejection of occupants from the vehicle onto the roadway where they have no protection whatsoever.

Proper windshield replacement has evolved into a demanding science as the vehicle manufacturers’ safety and structural support expectations of the windshield have increased through the years. Comprehensive technician training is essential. National Glass Association (NGA) certification of technician competency is highly recommended, and is required by most responsible auto glass service providers.

Currently, the NGA and the Coalition for Auto Glass Safety are working with a number of state legislatures to require the licensing and certification of all auto glass technicians. In the final analysis, being a well-informed consumer is probably the best protection against being a rollover statistic.

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