The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will unveil its new regulations in regard to vehicle roof strength requirements this June, a standard that hasn’t changed in more than 35 years. The move is part of the U.S. government’s sweeping reforms in safety standards to help reduce the number of rollover deaths and force manufacturers to provide safer vehicles for consumers. As such, Congress will be closely scrutinizing any changes put forward by the NHTSA.

The NHTSA is proposing tougher standards for roof strength that apply to a greater range of vehicles. Currently, manufacturers must provide roofs that can withstand 1.5 times their own weight, however the NHTSA is proposing to increase this to 2.5 times. Also, current legislation only covers vehicles weighing up to 6,000 pounds, but the NHTSA's plan will see vehicles weighing up to 10,000 pounds also covered under the regulation.

The new legislation is expected to be implemented by 2012 and this will likely have car makers scrambling to try and comply with the proposed requirements, reports The Detroit News. Ford argued that the new requirements will force manufacturers, already struggling to meet new CAFE emissions regulations, to increase the weight of vehicles.

Meanwhile, safety advocates, including Presidential candidate Ralph Nader, argue that the standard should be set even higher, lobbying for a 3 or 3.5 times standard to be put in place. The NHTSA revealed that asking manufacturers to produce roofs capable of supporting three times their weight would cost an additional $1.1 billion over increasing the standard by just 2.5 times.

Roughly 11,000 people die on American roads from rollovers each year (about 24,000 suffer permanently disabling accidents), which accounts for 25% of all fatalities even though it constitutes just 5% of all accidents.