Morning Shows Hype Need for a 'Federal Standard' on Rollovers

     Just how are car companies staying in business without caring about their customers?

     “The manufacturers would prefer to save the $100 that it would cost to make a strong roof and put it into their bottom line,” charged Clarence Ditlow of the Ralph Nader-founded Center for Auto Safety to CBS’s Bob Orr on the December 13 “Early Show.” Orr was reporting on new safety tests that can measure an automobile’s damage during a rollover.

     “A hundred bucks?” Orr asked. Yes, repeated Ditlow, “a hundred bucks, that’s all.”

     Orr failed to follow up the loaded charge with an auto industry or auto company spokesman. What’s more, Orr presented the deaths from rollovers as “skyrocketing,” without noting how rare rollover accidents themselves are. 

     According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, only 3 percent of road accidents involve rollovers, and in 72 percent of the rollover cases in 2002, the victims “were not wearing safety belts.”

     Orr also failed to ask Ditlow whether requiring stronger rooftops for cars and SUVs might lower fuel efficiency by adding to the weight of the vehicle. Ditlow’s organization has been critical of the auto industry for what it considers low fuel economy standards.

     The December 13 “Today” show on NBC ran a similar story by correspondent Jay Gray. While Gray avoided suggestions that the auto industry was concerned merely with “the bottom line,” he also failed to include an industry perspective in his story while prominently featuring liberal activist Joan Claybrook of Public Citizen.