Are Sunroofs Worth the Risk?

Car sunroofs are a popular choice among car shoppers – they provide extra sunlight, more airflow, and add appeal to the car’s design. This choice may come at a cost. There are hundreds of sunroof ejections every year and there are growing concerns about some sunroofs suddenly shattering for no apparent reason.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), about 300 people were killed and about 1,400 injured every year from 1997 to 2008 when they were thrown out of sunroofs, whether open or closed. In 2016, NHTSA conducted a study of ejections through closed sunroofs, and found that between 2002 and 2012, about 230 people were killed and 500 injured each year. There are currently no government regulations that require a sunroof — even a closed one — to keep someone inside a vehicle in a crash.

As car sunroofs have expanded in size in recent years, they’ve also become more prone to the potential hazard of shattering, often with no apparent cause.  An investigation by Consumer Reports identified at least 859 accounts of sunroof shattering in the NHTSA database. These complaints represent 208 models and 35 brands. The frequency of reports increases sharply after 2011, when models with large sunroofs become increasingly more popular.

Tempered glass is the usual choice in sunroofs because the glass is designed to break into small pieces, not large shards. Some automakers are starting to use laminated glass, the same kind required for windshields. Laminated glass—two panes fused by a sheet of plastic—is designed to hold its form even when shattered and can reduce the risk of ejections.

While sunroof failures do not occur as often as a tire blowout on the highway, any material failure while driving can present a real safety hazard. Engineers in CED’s Transportation Group have the right experience to properly investigate vehicle accidents involving sunroofs. Contact us today for your next vehicle crash or claim, or submit a case request online.