Is a Panoramic Sunroof Safe in a Rollover Crash?

Modern cars are put through rigorous testing to meet federal safety standards, but there are steps you can take to protect occupants.

Panoramic sunroofs have become a common and desirable feature on new cars and SUVs, with the expansive glass making them feel more spacious. But thousands of people are killed each year in rollover crashes, so it is fair to ask whether these glass roofs are safe in rollover collisions.

When you look at the overall structural integrity of a vehicle, keep in mind that engineers use stringent performance standards and testing when building a car. Safeguards are developed to then protect against both common and uncommon crash situations. The government scrutinizes car models with crash tests designed to identify structural weaknesses and ensure that all volume production vehicles provide a prescribed level of protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also rates vehicles for roof strength as part of its vehicle ratings.

That said, government crash-test results have shown that the effect of a sunroof is insignificant to the overall strength of the roof. The structure of a car consists of a strong steel frame wrapped by relatively thin metal panels. That steel frame is what is helping to keep you safe. The high-strength steel used in the pillars that hold up the roof—called A, B, C, and D pillars, based on their location—is where the energy is being absorbed in a crash—not the center of the roof.

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