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  • Bumper Q&A's
  • Antilock Brake Systems (ABS)
  • Stiffer Light Trucks and Vans
  • Light Trucks And Vans (LTVs)


  • Light Trucks And Vans (LTVs)

    February 1998

    INTRODUCTION

    Since the early 1980s, the category of vehicles referred to as light trucks and vans (LTVs) has grown dramatically. LTVs consist of trucks of 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight or less; pickups, vans, minivans, truck-based station wagons, and sport utility vehicles (SUVs). Between 1980 and 1996, the number of vehicles in the U.S. fleet grew at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 2 percent. LTV sales grew at a 7.8 percent (CAGR) rate and represented 34 percent of the fleet and 44 percent of new vehicle sales in 1996. During this same time period, the mix of vehicles comprising LTVs has changed, primarily due to the popularity of minivans and SUVs.

    The primary drivers of growth in LTV sales have been the decline in the cost of gasoline to consumers and increasing global competition. Global competition has forced auto manufacturers to better understand consumer needs and build innovative products, such as LTVs, to satisfy those needs. The popularity of LTVs with U.S. consumers and a growing number of consumers in other countries has made U.S. automobile manufacturers the global leaders in this vehicle category. Nonetheless, the emergence of this new type of vehicle has raised a number of very complex safety issues; including the relationship between:

      fatality trends and the growing number of LTVs,
      vehicle engineering design characteristics and crash fatalities, and
      driver behavior and fatalities.
    SAFETY OVERVIEW

    Light vehicles are defined as passenger cars and LTVs. Between 1980 and 1996, light vehicle-to-light vehicle fatalities were virtually unchanged: In 1980, there were about 10,596 fatalities; in 1996, 10,497. Understanding the trend in fatalities is difficult because there are factors that could drive the totals in either direction. For example, factors that should drive the trend lower include: greater use of seat belts and child safety seats, introduction of air bags, reductions in alcohol and drug impaired driving, and improvements in vehicle safety resulting from regulatory activities. Examples of forces that should drive fatalities higher include: increased vehicle miles traveled, congestion, number of aggressive drivers, fleet size, population, and demographic mix changes.

    There are two characteristics of LTVs that could potentially drive fatalities higher: rollover propensity and compatibility. In fatal crashes, SUVs are twice as likely to have rolled over than passenger cars. A rollover increases the likelihood of occupant ejection, fatality or injury.

    Compatibility involves differences in vehicle characteristics between passenger cars and LTVs such as weight, height off the ground, geometry and stiffness. NHTSA crash statistics demonstrate that, in side impact crashes, LTVs are more injurious as a striking vehicle than are passenger cars. For example, when LTVs strike passenger cars on the left side, the risk of death to the car driver can be 30 times higher than the risk to the LTV occupant. This compares to a driver fatality ratio of 6.6 to 1 in car-to-car left side impact crashes.

    . . . The number of multi vehicle crash fatalities attributable to LTV-car crashes has been increasing while those attributable to car-car crashes has been decreasing. However, it is not known whether this trend is reflecting the increased numbers of LTVs, the disparity in engineering characteristics between LTVs and passenger cars, or other factors such as vehicle use and driving behaviors.

    Although vehicle weight is only one characteristic distinguishing LTVs from cars, it is most often cited when discussing the issue of vehicle incompatibility. In general, when heavy vehicles strike lighter vehicles the overwhelming majority of fatalities occur in lighter vehicles. . .

    SAFETY PROGRAMS

    The overall objective of NHTSA's safety program is to make LTVs as safe as possible for occupants and for the occupants of other vehicles involved in a crash. NHTSA has two focal points in its strategy to meet this objective: (1) research and rulemaking coupled with enforcement, and (2) consumer information and driver behavior modification.

    Research and rulemaking efforts focus on improving crash avoidance, crash worthiness and the compatibility of LTVs with other passenger vehicles in multi vehicle crashes. Enforcement ensures that manufacturers comply with safety standards and correct safety defects. Consumer information and driver behavior efforts provide consumers with relevant safety information to use in the vehicle purchase decision and represent an attempt to influence driver behavior in such areas as impaired driving, belt use, and aggressive driving.

    Rollover

    Problem: In 1996, 30 percent of all passenger car and LTV fatalities were due to rollover crashes. But LTVs are involved in fatal rollover crashes at a much higher rate. As indicated in figure 4, SUVs have the highest rate of fatal crashes involving rollover (37 percent). The difference in rollover propensity is due to handling and stability factors and the manner in which the vehicles are driven.

    Almost 60 percent of fatalities in rollover crashes occur when occupants are ejected through doors or windows. In other cases, the roof crushes, causing head or neck injuries, or occupants are thrown around inside the vehicle hitting hard surfaces. In addition to efforts to increase seat belt use, the agency has many research programs underway to prevent fatalities and reduce the severity of injuries in rollovers. These programs could also achieve benefits in crashes not involving rollovers.

    Current Program:

      Handling and Stability: This program focuses on single vehicle on-the-road rollovers, which comprise less than 10 percent of all rollover crashes. Recently, the agency collected test track data for different maneuvers to determine whether a vehicle response to an extreme, but realistic, steering maneuver could induce a rollover. A small number of maneuvers were found to be more likely than others to induce a rollover. Expanded testing of these maneuvers is planned for the summer, 1998, so that a decision can be made by the end of the year as to whether a rulemaking is needed.

      Collision Avoidance Systems: Longer-term research is under way on roadway departure sensing and warning capability. Ideally, the vehicle could detect when it is traveling too fast for an upcoming turn and would warn the driver to slow down before the vehicle runs off the road, thus reducing the risk of a rollover.

      Rollover Labels and Consumer Information: The agency is considering a change to the rollover warning label for utility vehicles to make it more effective by providing more information to consumers on size and safety, and rollover susceptibility.

      Ejection: The agency has been researching new test procedures to address the 2,300 fatalities annually due to ejection through opened doors. In addition, about 7,500 people die a year from complete or partial ejection out of windows. A potential countermeasure which is being evaluated is the use of advanced side glazing for vehicles. The agency will prepare a report summarizing the results of all testing by July, 1998 and make a decision on rulemaking action by the end of the calendar year. Dynamic interior head air bag protection systems have also been shown to reduce ejections.

      Roof Crush and Seating Systems: The agency is researching changes to the roof crush standard. The agency will prepare an analysis of the results of this research by May and make a decision on possible rulemaking actions by October, 1998. In addition, the agency is researching improved integrated seating systems that are strong enough to reduce the effects of roof crush and could be more effective in rollover crashes by having the shoulder belt attached closer to the occupant's shoulder.

    Behavior

      Problem: LTV safety concerns cannot be fully addressed if factors related to vehicle use and driver behavior are not understood. Based on statistical crash data collected by NHTSA, it is clear that driving and safety behavior varies considerably among drivers of passenger cars and LTVs. Within these vehicle categories, high risk populations have been identified. For example, the rate of fatalities among older drivers of certain categories of LTVs almost doubled between 1988 and 1996, while the rate for younger drivers, although high, has been declining. The rate of fatalities in rural vs urban areas is split about evenly for passenger cars, utility vehicles and vans. However, for pickups, about 70 percent of fatalities occurs in rural areas and 30 percent in urban areas. NHTSA's partners and the Safe Communities Program target high risk populations and use NHTSA programs and services to modify driving behavior. For example, a partnership with the National Rural Health Association was developed to increase seat belt use 30 percent by the end of 1997. The primary behavioral problems for all passenger vehicles relate to the use of seat belts, impaired driving, and speeding/aggressive driving. The specific problems relating to LTVs are: Seat Belts: In 1996 approximately 40 percent and 50 percent of drivers of utility vehicles and pickups respectively, involved in fatal crashes did not wear their seat belts. These rates are above those for passenger cars (38 percent) and vans (29 percent). Increased seat belt usage among owners of pickups and utility vehicles could reduce fatalities and injuries.

      Alcohol: Although the trend in alcohol related fatalities is down, alcohol remains a serious problem in fatal crashes involving passenger cars and LTVs. In 1996 approximately 33 percent and 27 percent of drivers of utility vehicles and pickups respectively, involved in fatal crashes had measurable levels of alcohol in their blood. These rates are above those for drivers of passenger cars (26 percent) and vans (16 percent). Reducing the use of alcohol among drivers of utility vehicles and pickups could decrease the number of fatalities and injuries.

      Speeding/Aggressive Driving: In 1996, speeding was the second most frequently mentioned factor associated with fatal crashes.


    This information came from an
    NHTSA online article.

    *** Any law, statute, regulation or other precedent is subject to change at any time ***

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