DEARBORN, MI – In 1999, Ford Motor Company decided to further improve the compatibility of its larger vehicles in crashes with cars. The move has helped to significantly reduce fatalities in such collisions, according to a recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The study supports Ford’s own findings that the number of passenger-car driver deaths in both front- and side-impact collisions between cars and SUVs or pickup trucks was substantially reduced when SUVs or pickup trucks were either lowered or equipped with special impact-absorbing bars below the front bumpers. The company’s patented BlockerBeam underride protection system, introduced on Excursion, is fashioned with less than 50 lbs. of steel. It is used on vehicles in which frame rails cannot be sufficiently lowered due to ground clearance and approach angle requirements for off-road use. Currently on the Ford F-250 and F-350 Super Duty models, the system allows a larger vehicle and a car to share energy during a crash, instead of the smaller car absorbing the bulk of the crash energy. The Ford BlockerBeam essentially is a hollow cross member attached to the frame approximately 2.5 inches below car bumpers and 6.5 inches behind the conventional front bumper. During a frontal collision with a car, the structure is designed to make contact with the frame rails of a car in an effort to help prevent the car from sliding beneath a higher-riding vehicle. To help manage crash energy from rear collisions, vehicles equipped with the BlockerBeam are fitted with Ford’s largest trailer hitch — standard on all models. The hitch spans more than three feet across the vehicle’s rear and attaches to the frame. The 3.5-square-inch hitch is designed to prevent lower-riding cars from sliding underneath the back of the F-250 and F350 Super Duty trucks. It also reduces the amount of intrusion into the passenger compartment of the car. The Volvo XC90 and Land Rover Range Rover and LR3 also are equipped with impact-absorbing bars. Ford has opted to lower the frame rails on other SUVs and pickups in order to provide better compatibility with cars. Those vehicles include the Ford Expedition, Explorer, Freestar, and F-150, Mercury Mountaineer and Monterey, Lincoln Navigator and Mark LT, and the Volvo XC70.