WASHINGTON -- Automakers should do more to make pickups less likely to roll over, even as SUVs have become safer, the government's chief safety regulator says.
More motorists are using pickups as passenger vehicles rather than work trucks, says Jeffrey Runge, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That's especially true of young crash-prone drivers, he adds.
"It's a concern," Runge says.
At the same time, Runge last week praised the industry for increasing the number of SUVs that get higher roll-over resistance ratings from NHTSA.
Vehicles earn one to five stars for their ability to resist rollovers. Safer vehicles get more stars.
Among 2005 vehicles evaluated by the agency, 24 SUVs got four-star rollover ratings. Four years ago, when the government first issued those ratings, just one SUV got four stars: the Pontiac Aztek.
SUVs built on car platforms that get four stars in the new ratings include all-wheel-drive and two-wheel-drive versions of the Ford Freestyle and Nissan Murano, and four-wheel-drive and 2wd versions of the Honda CR-V. Examples of four-star SUVs built on truck frames are 4wd versions of the Lincoln Navigator, Chevrolet TrailBlazer and Dodge Durango.