General Motors (NYSE: GM) opened an in-house rollover research crash test facility on Tuesday to study ways to reduce injuries and deaths in rollover crashes.

The facility, located in Milford, Michigan, cost $10 million to build. Research will focus on developing sensors for airbags that could help protect occupants in a rollover accident and help keep the occupants from being ejected.

”We’ve been working on understanding rollover crashes for many years and our commitment to making StabiliTrak electronic stability control standard on our cars and trucks is a big part of that,’’ GM Vice President of Energy and Environment Beth Lowery said at a news conference following the first public test at the facility.

A survey conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) showed that although rollover accidents account for 2 percent of all crashes, they claim at least 40 percent of fatalities annually on American roads. GM said such accidents have the potential to claim 10,000 lives per year.

Lowery said that all GM retail-delivered cars and trucks would have standard rollover-enabled side curtain airbags by 2012. She added that such airbags are currently available on 43 percent of GM light trucks. The company expects to carry the airbags in all GM light trucks by 2009.