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Cutting SUVs Down To Size

If you think sport utility vehicles are a danger to other motorists, the companies that make them agree with you.

The New York Times reports that automakers will modify SUV designs to reduce the risks to other vehicles. This is the first time that the auto industry admits that current SUV designs are dangerous to other motorists.

General Motors said it will manufacture the 2002 Oldsmobile Bravada, GMC Envoy and Chevrolet Blazer with underbody steel rails up to 2 inches lower than in current models to reduce the risk of their smashing over cars' bumpers and doorsills.

Ford said it will do the same with its Explorer, Expedition and Lincoln Navigator. And DaimlerChrysler said it will make several changes to the 2002 Dodge Durango's front end so it is less likely to override cars in collisions.

Foreign automakers also plan to design their SUVs so they are less likely to injure or kill people in other vehicles during crashes, the Times said. The Toyota Sequoia will have impact-absorbing bars below the bumpers, a feature recently added to the Ford Excursion.

Nissan, Honda and Mitsubishi either have made design changes or said they plan to.

SUVs are considerably heavier than cars. The vehicles, which will continue to have high hoods that cause more damage and injuries when striking cars from the side, are almost three times as likely as cars to kill the other driver in a crash, the Times said.