Public Citizen demands better seat belts

April 20, 2004 at 4:29 PM
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WASHINGTON, April 20 (UPI) -- The consumer watchdog group Public Citizen is urging Congress to enact vehicle safety measures to require improved seat belts and other equipment.

The Washington-based consumer advocacy organization said deaths from rollover crashes make up one-third of all the vehicle occupant fatalities in the United States, about 10,600 each year. Public Citizen said rollover fatalities increased as the number of sport-utility vehicles proliferated on U.S. roads.

About 22,000 people died in rollover accidents in the United States in the decade between 1992 and 2002, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said.

Federal statistics estimate 79 percent of Americans routinely use their seat belts, but Public Citizen says even belted passengers face three risks in rollovers -- seat belt failure, ejection and crushed roofs.

"It is inexcusable to install belts that do not do the job," said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook. "The auto industry has known for decades how to design belts to better protect occupants in rollover crashes but has failed to do so."

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