SUV Roofs Need To Be Stronger, Says Government

A new report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says lives would be saved each year on America's highways if the roofs of SUVs were made stronger.

The institute tested roofs on 11-popular, mid-sized, two and four-door SUVs - all of which meet current federal safety standards. Of the eleven models tested, the best was the Nissan Xterra, followed by the Ford Explorer and Jeep Liberty.

The three which didn't fare so well were late model Chevy Blazers, GMC Jimmys and the least safe was the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

The results were based on placing ten-thousand pounds of pressure on the roofs of each vehicle and pressing down to a number of depths. The study also looked at more than 26-thousand SUV accidents over a seven-year period in 12 states.

The government currently requires that all vehicle roofs be strong enough to support one-and-a-half times the vehicles total weight. It's currently considering improving that to two-and-a-half times - saying that move could save up to 44-lives each year.

The insurance institute says even more lives would be saved if the mimim level were doubled from that now required - or three-times the vehicles total weight.

The auto industry says the report is "flawed" and that two previous studies they conducted in 1995 and again in 2005 show no relationship between roof strength and the risk of injury or death from a roll over.

Cathryn Khalil, reporting.

Information from the Associated Press.