Group: Low-speed vehicles not safe on roads

LOS ANGELES The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's most recent crash tests shows that "low-speed vehicles" are more likely to resemble a death trap than a glorified golf cart.

"The GEM e2 runs on batteries," said David Zuby, chief researcher at the institute."It was designed to meet the federal low-speed vehicle safety requirements. It has headlights, a windshield and safety belts, but that's about it."

The GEM has neither air bags nor a safety cage.

Also included in the crash tests were mini-trucks, which are imported vehicles designed for off road use, or as an inexpensive way to haul things around.

More and more mini-trucks are cruising down public roads, without the protection found in larger trucks like a Ford Ranger.

"With no front air bags or crumple zone a real driver in the mini-truck would have suffered serious neck, head, and leg injuries," said Zuby. "In contrast, the driver in the Ford Ranger would have walked away."

As states push more for "greener" vehicles on the road the institute says there is a need to push for safety too.

"Saving fuel and reducing pollution are important public goals, but we shouldn't sacrifice 40 years of vehicle safety progress to meet them," said Zuby. "We can help the environment without putting lives at risk."

Also included in the crash tests was the Smart car, which is the smallest passenger car that meets all crashworthiness standards. In fact, it earned good ratings in the institute's front and side crash tests.

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