Crash Tests: Bigger Is Better

Crash tests by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have confirmed that in most cases minivans, pickups, and sport utility vehicles do excessive damage in collisions with smaller cars.

But the government's report, issued with taped crash footage, suggests that size alone is not the problem, reports CBS News Correspondent Bob Orr.

"There are other factors," says Brian O'Neill, from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. "We know that the stiffness of the vehicles is important. Probably more important is the geometry, how high they ride off the ground."

Safety experts agree that lowering the height of light trucks would make them more crash friendly, reducing injuries and deaths. There are some signs that automakers are changing the way they design these vehicles.

Just this weekend, Ford unveiled the largest sports utility vehicle (SUV) yet, the Excursion. It seats 9 and features what is known as a blocker beam. "What it's designed to do is prevent cars from sliding under SUVs in a frontal collision," says Ford engineer Paul Mayer. "And it's designed to be right on level with a passenger car bumper."

The crash tests reiterate that big autos are safer than small ones, as long as you are in one and not hit by one. But with some redesign, the government contends, size doesn't have to present such a deadly mismatch.