The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommended dozens of new safety initiatives on Thursday to reduce rollover crashes and protect occupants in cars that crash with sport utility vehicles and other trucks, the Detroit News reported.

The recommendations include new safety ratings that tell consumers how well vehicles handle in abrupt manoeuvres and a complete overhaul of the federal regulation for protecting occupants in side-impact crashes.

To reduce rollovers, the Detroit News said, NHTSA is considering for the first time a programme to evaluate how well vehicles handle in emergencies because vehicles with more responsive steering will help drivers stay on the road. NHTSA might publish ratings to help consumers choose vehicles with better handling characteristics, the report added.

The paper said NHTSA also wants automakers to use safety belt reminder systems and estimates that 78% of those killed in rollover crashes are unbelted.

At the same time, the Detroit News added, NHTSA will upgrade its roof-strength requirements. Currently, vehicles must have roofs strong enough to bear 1.5 times their weight. Critics say the test does not replicate the violence of a real-world rollover crash.

NHTSA also said increased seat belt use, stronger windows, side-curtain air bags and better door latches could play a role in preventing occupants from being ejected during a crash, which is key to survival, the paper noted.

To lessen the danger of crashes between cars and SUVs and other trucks, NHTSA proposed an overhaul to its side-impact safety standard, the Detroit News said. The agency could upgrade the test with minimum head and chest injury-prevention requirements, leading automakers to adopt side-impact air bags or different door structures, especially in cars. The agency is undertaking a year of further research before it will decide whether to pursue any new front-end design requirements, the paper added, noting that NHTSA set no specific timetable for implementing the recommendations and that the public can comment on the plans for the next 45 days.