Automakers Launch SUV Crash Initiative

SUV car truck bumpers
An auto industry group says it is launching a new initiative to reduce injuries resulting from collisions between sport utility vehicles and cars.

The effort could lead to the "development of voluntary standards, such as those previously developed for side air bags," the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers said in a letter sent Thursday to Jeffrey Runge, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

"There is a strong commitment to move forward expeditiously," said the letter, which was also signed by the president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

"The industry looks forward to working with NHTSA to ensure that government and industry are moving in the same direction on enhancing vehicle-to-vehicle crash compatibility," it said.

Ann Smith, a spokeswoman for DaimlerChrysler AG, said Friday that the letter followed a pair of technical workshops on Tuesday and Wednesday in Washington put together by the Alliance and the Insurance Institute.

The auto industry now will form teams whose job it will be to study the impact of front-to-front collisions, the other dealing with front-to-side crashes, Smith said.

She said the industry wants to look into "what happens when vehicles of different sizes hit each other."

"Now you've got all sorts of things in between - a lot of trucks are getting lower to the car and car-based vehicles are getting bigger."

The popularity of SUVs has increased steadily over the past decade. They now comprise up to 25 percent of total U.S. vehicle sales, depending on whether so-called crossover models are included. But concerns have been raised about safety, including the safety of people in smaller vehicles when they are hit by SUVs.