Sunroofs and moonroofs are popular additions to vehicles from many auto manufacturers. Over the years, these options have become larger and are described as “panoramic.” Many times, during accidents, people are ejected through these openings even if they are closed. Still, there are no regulations covering the safety of these options on vehicles as the New York Times reports.
A trade publication called WardsAuto indicated that 40% of all 2017 cars and light trucks were sold with a sunroof option. This equates to about seven million vehicles. This has risen from 33% in 2011.
From 1997 to 2008, about 300 people were killed and another 1,400 injured in sunroof ejections every year. These numbers include cases where the sunroof is both open and closed.
Liza Hankins was 18-years-old in 2005 when she was ejected from a closed sunroof in her 2000 Ford Explorer. Hankins emerged from the accident paralyzed and along with her family, sued Ford Motor Company.
Ford Motor Company won the lawsuit by stating that there were no federal regulations regarding the safety of sunroofs. The lawsuit claimed that Ford was aware that using laminated glass in sunroofs made them safer and might prevent ejections. Still, the company used less expensive tempered glass.
Researchers at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have created a new test that could mean the federal government is laying the groundwork to begin regulating sunroofs.
In 2011, the NHTSA considered regulations regarding sunroof ejections when it established rules that prevented side-window ejections. Ultimately, the agency decided not to implement the regulations.
While wearing a seatbelt greatly reduces the chances of a complete ejection through a sunroof, a violent crash may still result in a partial ejection.
One option that a South Korean company Hyundai Mobis hopes to offer in the next year or two is what may be the first sunroof airbag. Hyundai Mobis supplies parts to both Hyundai and Kia.
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