AGRR Magazine

AGRSS Conference Opens in Las Vegas

The second annual Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standards Council (AGRSS) Conference opened this morning in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, as part of Auto Glass Week.

Cindy Ketcherside, AGRSS board of directors president, opened the two day event. She pointed out that in her more than two decades in the auto glass industry, one of the most important changes she has seen is the increased emphasis on safety. AGRSS has played a role in the awareness of auto glass replacement to safety, she pointed out.

AGRSS has moved from "I will" to "I do" and will implement a training program the first quarter of next year, Ketcherside told attendees. "We're going to show that we can make a difference," she added. "AGRSS shops are not a commodity."

She then introduced the keynote speaker Byron Bloch, an independent consultant in automotive safety and vehicle crashworthiness.

"What you who are AGRSS registered are doing is marvelous," he began. "AGRSS has safety in its name. I have fought to avoid needless death on the highway. There has been progress in my several decades in the industry," he added, "such as air bags, but we still have a long way to go. What you do in AGRSS is so compelling and important. You are like preventive medicine. If you were a surgeon who had worked with auto accident victims to mend them, you'd be applauded. But as auto glass replacement specialists, you avoid that injury in the first place."

In examining the question of safety, he made the point that while air bags have become standard in the last decade, their implementation was actually delayed for a couple of decades because of political considerations. "There was needless delay in making air bags standard," he stated. "That resulted in a lot of needless injuries and death." The same thing with seat belt restraints, he said, giving another example. "They have only come into wide use in the last five or six years."

With that perspective, what about glass, he asked. Bloch then focused on the use of laminated glass and its role in crash worthiness. He gave accident case examples of what happened in various types of accidents.

The first was a common rollover accident with partial ejection of the seat-belted driver. Passengers can be partially ejected from a vehicle when tempered glass is used for the window. That happened in this case, and it was fatal for the driver, he explained.

"Why is auto glazing often overlooked?," he asked. "Every year there are more than 10,000 rollover fatalities per year, almost 9,000 side impact fatalities per year and 7,800 ejection fatalities annually. It's a serious subject and it refers to the vehicle glazing," he stated.

Bloch then explained that NHTSA has conducted a series of tests with tempered glass to see what happens with occupant ejection (it occurred) and then laminated glass (where it didn't).

In the second example, in a collision in which there is no rollover but the seat belt does not remain intact, the glass can still shatter and evacuate the opening so that a child can be ejected from the vehicle. With a laminated window, this does not happen.

As part of his research, Bloch explained, he went to salvage yards to examine SUVs to see what kind of glass was in them. He found that the tempered glass windows had shattered, offering no protection for occupants. In vehicles with laminated glass in the side windows, the glass while broken was still intact, keeping occupants from partial or complete ejection.

What did we know and when did we know it about the safety of laminated side windows, he asked. During a visit to a class car show this fall in Rockville, Md., he found that the 1948 Cadillac Coupe had laminated glass on the passenger side. The 1952 Hudson Hornet had laminated glass for the side windows, as did the 1955 Buick Century and the 1957 Chevy Bel Air, which he called truly an American classic car.

"A 1955 Chevrolet brochure pointed out that laminated glass was a safety feature in its vehicles," he said. "A 1957 DuPont report said that the auto industry was showing great interest in tempered glass to save money but would compromise passenger safety," he told attendees.

"For 30 years we have known that not using laminated glass in side windows results in needless harm to vehicle occupants, yet NHTSA will only complete its revision of the federal safety standards in the fall of 2009. That is another three years of needless injury and death," he said.

"What is needed is the combination of side curtain air bags and laminated glass," he said. "The laminated glass helps make more efficient the side curtain air bags."

For safety reasons, he recommended that corrosion be taken care of before a replacement windshield is installed and the costs should be fully covered by insurance. The combination of both laminated side windows and side curtain air bags should be mandatory. The retrofit of laminated side windows to replace tempered glass should be encouraged and permitted by NHTSA and insurers. The same reasons for having a laminated windshield such as roof support and air bag support apply to the side windows.

He said that for the AGR industry to get its message across, it needs to pay attention to the law suits involving crash worthiness, which are settled by the vehicle manufacturers when it is shown what the cause of the injuries are, to send tapes and scripts to the media discussing the role of glass in vehicle safety, and to pursue congressional awareness and action for legislative action. "You play a role in safety moving ahead through AGRSS," he concluded.

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