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New Rule Designed to Help Keep Occupants Inside During Vehicle Rollover

U.S. Department of Transportation has issued a new rule aimed at preventing occupant ejections in passenger vehicles.

The rule, issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), is designed to help reduce the number of people partially or completely ejected through side windows during rollover crashes, and will be phased in from 2013 to 2018.

New side curtain airbags will be used to contain passengers inside the vehicle, though the standards require the airbag to prevent ejection even if the widow is open.

The agency has also upgraded the roof crush standard to prevent a roof collapse and to further help maintain the integrity of the passenger compartment.

The rule is expected to save 373 fatalities and 476 serious injuries per year. Rollover accidents killed over 8,200 people in 2009.

"Rollover crashes are the deadliest of all crash types and this is another important step in our efforts to reduce fatalities and serious injuries that result from them," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland.

Rollover accidents are dangerous to the vehicle occupant, because of the likelihood of the occupants being ejected. They are much more deadly than head on collisions; the numbers show an occupant in a rollover crash is 14 times more likely to be killed than an occupant in a frontal crash.

The FARS data indicates that almost half of the occupants killed in rollovers were completely ejected from their vehicle.

From 2000-2009, there were 358 occupants killed for every 1,000 fully ejected occupants in rollover crashes, as compared to 14 of every 1,000 occupants not ejected.

NHTSA's new standards are part of a larger program of vehicle improvements, the first prong of the strategy includes electronic stability control (ESC) systems, designed to help keep vehicles on the road.

The second prong is the new ejection prevention standards, so if the vehicle leaves the road and rolls over, the occupants should remain inside the passenger compartment.

NHTSA estimates the safety improvements will be achieved at modest cost, and that the new ejection mitigation systems will only add $31 to the cost of each vehicle.