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New Car Roof-Crush Rule Coming

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is expected to issue a new standard to require automakers to make stronger roofs on vehicles, according to a newspaper report.

The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed industry sources, on Wednesday reported details of the proposed rule that is expected to be published later this week in a regulatory effort to protect occupants in rollover crashes.

An NHTSA spokesman Wednesday declined to release details of the proposed rule. Congress last month directed the government to issue a new roof-strength rule.

The proposal, an upgrade to a long-standing federal regulation, would apply for the first time to large sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks under 10,000 pounds, according to the report. The current law exempts any vehicle over 6,000 pounds.

Under the new provision, popular vehicles such as the Chevrolet Suburban, the Dodge Ram and the Ford Expedition would be included in the standard, according to the story.

The auto industry and safety groups have disagreed over the necessity of the rule change, with automakers arguing that strengthening roofs would not provide additional protection to occupants and safety advocates asserting the rules need to be greatly enhanced.

Rollover crashes account for more than one-third of traffic fatalities. In 2004, 10,553 died in rollover crashes, up from 10,442 in 2003.

The regulation would require roofs to withstand direct pressure of about 2.5 times the vehicle's gross weight, upgrading the current rule of 1.5 times the weight.

The rule is expected to cost the industry about $90 million annually and is projected to save between 11 and 44 lives per year.

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