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Vehicle safety agreement between feds, automakers under scrutiny

A new federal study shows that efforts to reduce fatalities in truck accidents between cars and trucks have been successful concerning cars and sport utility vehicles. Accidents between cars and pickup trucks, however, have actually experienced an upward tick resulting in more fatalities, suggesting further safety measures need to be taken by automakers to better protect drivers in Ohio and across the rest of the country.

According to the report, which was issued by the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration, it is unknown whether the improved safety of some drivers can be attributed to a voluntary agreement between automakers that attempts to minimize the mismatch in height between different types of vehicles.

The report states that the truck crash rate between cars and SUVs decreased by 17 percent between 2002 and 2010, but car accidents between cars and pickups actually increased over that time despite the belief that safety measures were being implemented to reduce this rate.

One theory for why this has occurred is that the interpretation of the safety guidelines voluntarily agreed to by manufacturers may have differed from one automaker to the next. That's a concern to some because the voluntary agreement no longer has the clout it once held. Automakers don't have to prove they meet the standards of the agreement, and a proposed federal rule to create stricter regulations and standards was dropped in 2008.

The NHTSA has not ruled out the possibility of trying to implement new rules to lower the fatality risk in accidents involving cars and pickups.

Source: USA TODAY, "Cars and SUVs less mismatched in crashes; pickups lag," Jayne O'Donnell, June 19, 2012

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