Statement of Rev. Lawrence Harris
Pittsgrove, New Jersey
November 21, 2005

Good afternoon. My name is Larry Harris and I came here today from Pittsgrove, New Jersey, to ask the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to create a roof crush standard for auto manufacturers to follow that would actually improve the strength of vehicle roofs. Anything less will jeopardize the lives of American families on our roadways.

I know firsthand how important it is to have a strong roof. On July 19, 1997, my life and the lives of my entire family drastically changed as we were all in a crash in our family van, a 1987 Ford Econoline. The crash left me quadriplegic.

 The crushed roof of Rev. Harris's vehicle.

A photo of the van following the crash

Things that I before took for granted, such as getting up in the morning and doing normal procedures to prepare yourself to meet the day, I now need assistance with. Every minute of every day I am reminded of the day my life changed forever.

I consider myself fortunate that my family and I survived the crash, my family all with minimal injuries. Despite the accident, God has been gracious to us. But every year, thousands of people, just like me, are not as fortunate. People need to know crashes like mine are not rare – they happen every single day to people all around us.

I have to live with the consequences of a government roof strength standard that is way too low. The proposed roof strength standard will not be sufficient. My Econoline van would have met this standard, the roof would have crushed, and I would still be a quadriplegic.

It’s time for citizens like us to be heard and for the government to enact a law that forces auto manufacturers to build vehicles that are safer, stronger and will increase the chances of people walking away from an accident. I ask the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to please set a meaningful, adequate roof crush standard.

Thank you.