Arlington, Virginia – The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has petitioned the U.S. federal government to regulate the bumpers on light trucks, including SUVs, pickups and vans, just as it regulates those on cars. The IIHS is asking for the same bumper rules to apply to all kinds of passenger vehicles.

To meet federal rules, car bumpers must be 16 to 20 inches (40.6 to 50.8 cm) off the ground, and limit the amount of damage that can be sustained in a low-speed crash. The idea is to ensure that bumpers on colliding cars engage each other, absorbing the impact energy and preventing damage to expensive parts such as fenders, grilles and lights. Car bumper rules do not apply to light trucks, and it is still legal to sell these vehicles will no bumpers at all.

The IIHS said that federal regulators’ long-standing thinking is that requiring bumpers on light trucks would compromise off-road navigation and make it hard to use the vehicles at loading trucks; the IIHS counters that damage-resistant bumpers on light trucks need not compromise utility.

The IIHS tested four midsize SUVs striking the back of a typical midsize car at 10 mph (16 km/h) hour. The front bumpers on the Hummer H3, Jeep Grand Cherokee and Mitsubishi Endeavor proved so high that they overrode the bumpers of a stationary Hyundai Sonata used in the test. Damage to the Sonata vehicles ranged from US$3,891 to US$4,737, with each SUV sustaining more than US$1,000 damage each. In contrast, a Ford Explorer tested sustained less than US$1,000 damage in tests and inflicted only about one-third as much damage as the H3, the worst performer of the group tested.

“There’s no evidence that the relatively effective bumpers on the Ford Explorer compromise its off-road performance or its utility at loading ramps,” said Adrian Lund, IIHS President. “The Explorer shows that you can still have the utility of an SUV without making bumpers so high that they don’t line up with cars.”

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