Efforts to reduce the number of deaths in crashes between cars and light trucks have been successful with SUVs but not with pickups, a new federal report shows.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report says it isn’t clear whether a voluntary agreement by automakers to correct the height mismatch between cars and trucks in crashes has led to an overall reduction in fatalities.
The report, which was quietly released last month, says fatalities in car-truck crashes were down 8% from 2002 to 2010, thanks to a 17% decrease in fatalities in cars hit by SUVs. Crashes with pickups actually led to 5% more car deaths, and there wasn’t any reduction in fatalities for about half of vehicles studied, NHTSA said.
In 2010, 2,740 people died in cars that collided with SUVs or pickups, while 749 people in the light trucks died.
Joe Nolan, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s vice president of research, says that while the results for SUVs were heartening, “There’s a problem with pickup trucks.”
Automakers no longer have to prove they meet the voluntary agreement and have flexibility in how they do so.
NHTSA has new technology that will help it determine during routine crash testing whether the forces from trucks strike higher than prescribed in the voluntary agreement. Transportation Department spokeswoman Lynda Tran says if NHTSA found issues during this testing, “It would raise concerns with the automaker,” she says.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers committee that adopted the car-truck crash standard gave up on efforts to draft a possible federal rule and test that would measure vehicles’ compliance in 2008.
Mukul Verma, who was chairman of the industry committee, says a uniform test would ensure automakers are all complying in the same way. Verma, now an engineering professor and safety consultant, says the inconsistent results in the NHTSA study could be caused by different interpretations of the standard.
Safety advocate Sean Kane of Safety Research & Strategies agrees. Tran says NHTSA will consider action or rules if necessary.
NHTSA and the alliance cite the results of an agency report out last week that showed the likelihood of crashing in 100,000 miles of driving was reduced from 30% in a model year 2000 car to 25% in a model year 2008 vehicle.
The chance of surviving uninjured was up to 82% from 79%.