Compatibility refers to how well two vehicles match up in a two vehicle crash. Heavier vehicles with higher ground clearance can pose a disproportionate risk to occupants of smaller cars. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Manufacturers can design larger vehicles to distribute crash forces over a greater area, thus reducing the risk to occupants of struck vehicles.
Vehicle compatibility is complicated and relates to a number of vehicle characteristics including weight, ground clearance, bumper height, and the shape of the front end. Public Citizen has long advocated that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issue a standard for vehicle compatibility, but the agency has not done so. Vehicle manufacturers entered into a voluntary agreement on compatibility in 2003, but the voluntary agreement has since disbanded. This underscores the need for the agency to issue a standard.