WASHINGTON – A majority of Americans wants Congress to pass legislation that would mandate better rollover protection in sport utility vehicles and automobiles,according to a new poll released Monday.
The Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety,which commissioned the poll,says that approximately 10,000 people – one-fourth of motor vehicle deaths – die in rollover crashes every year.
The Lou Harris Poll found that 84 percent of adults surveyed said they support stronger and uniform federal auto safety standards. The poll found that eight of 10 SUV owners favor a federal requirement to force manufacturers to make all motor vehicles,including SUVs,less likely to roll over in crashes.
Deaths in rollover crashes are on the rise,including a 10 percent jump in fatalities resulting from SUV rollover crashes last year.
“Everyone knows that the leading edge of all auto vehicle sales is SUVs. They are sacred cows,” said Louis Harris,the dean of American public opinion analysts,at a press conference. “The common assumption that anything that is a hot seller,something people can't get enough of,is untouchable is dead wrong.”
According to the poll,85 percent of SUV owners are aware of rollover problems in SUVs.
“SUV owners don't want to give up their favorite vehicles,but they don't want to die in them either,” said Harris.
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety,an alliance of consumer,health and safety groups,is pushing for Congress to adopt the Senate-passed motor vehicle safety provision.
Just over 1,000 adults were surveyed by telephone in May and June. The poll's margin of error is 3.1 percent.
The transportation bill,dubbed SAFETEA (for Safe,Accountable,Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity Act of 2003) has “very significant differences between the House and Senate,” said Judith Lee Stones,president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.
“We stand here because the Congress is about to make life or death decisions,” Stones said. She called for the Senate provisions to prevail because they will direct the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to take on issues such as rollover prevention and roof crush protection.
Dena and Patrick Parker drove for four days from Childress,Texas,to attend the news conference because Patrick is unable to fly after an August 2001 accident.
“Patrick was wearing his seat belt,but he never had a chance. It was the roof crushing in on him that broke his neck,nearly severing his spinal cord and rendering him quadriplegic” said Dena Parker,who broke down in tears as she told the story of her husband's accident when he was 37 years old.
“If our journey and message can prevent the tragedy that has befallen our family from happening to others,then we know it has been worth the struggle to be here today” said Dena,who with her husband will present a petition to the House Tuesday asking for action on the bill.
The safety group said 114,819 people died in rollover crashes from 1991 to 2002. The states with the most deaths were California with 11,874,Texas with 10,051 and Florida with 5,424.
“Solutions to these problems are available right now,” said Stones. “They don't have to be invented. These safety features should be standard equipment for all car buyers,not mere options for those who can afford it.”
She said an electronic stability control system would cost $200,compared to at least $1,295 to install a DVD system in a car.