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"Exploding sunroofs" happening more often, leaving drivers on edge

Experts have yet to establish a cause behind sudden sunroof shattering.

Shattering sunroofs: It can be scary and dangerous. This problem has been reported before and dates back decades.

Now an investigation by Consumer Reports finds complaints have been filed in hundreds of models, including cars with panoramic sunroofs -- a luxury feature that could pose a risk. They say the industry needs to put the pedal to the medal when it comes to improving standards and design.

Consumer Reports recently analyzed over 20 years of data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and found shattered sunroofs reported in at least 208 models across 35 brands. And these are only the cases reported to the agency. Some manufacturers know of even more.

David Friedman of Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization division of Consumer Reports, was acting administrator of NHTSA in 2014. He says, although it’s not clear exactly why this is happening, the evidence that it is happening is really clear. Friedman believes automakers should be much more proactive and recall these vehicles.

The agency is currently only investigating the 2011 through 2013 Kia Sorento SUV -- but Consumers Union would like that to be expanded, as other sunroofs are also prone to shattering. NHTSA has more than enough evidence to consider this a safety defect. And they certainly shouldn’t wait for a fatality or an injury before forcing the car companies to act.

When it comes to the glass itself, regulators can also call for different kinds of testing and adjust the standards as designs evolve. The regulations around sunroofs are clearly outdated, according to Friedman. They were designed when the sunroofs were a lot smaller. Today they are a lot bigger and regulations needs to catch up.

Consumer Reports says if this happens to you, take pictures and video with your phone immediately and contact your dealer about a repair. If they aren’t helpful, contact the automaker. You can also enlist your insurer to help convince them to cover the repair. Also be sure to file a report with NHTSA, which you can do at safercar.gov.

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