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By Michael Gormley / Associated Press

ALBANY, N.Y. -- What’s a truck?

The answer to that question, posed by a New York City lawmaker, could end up restricting which highways and streets large sport utility vehicles can travel in New York.

Assemblyman Ivan Lafayette wants to require heavy SUVs to travel along truck routes, saying their girth makes them subject to the same weight-based safety standards as their commercial cousins.

“Where does a passenger vehicle end and a truck begin?” Lafayette asked. “Is a 10,000-pound Hummer a truck?”

A typical compact Honda, by contrast, weighs about 2,000 pounds.

Lafayette, who drives a Ford Taurus, said he’s preparing legislation that would target nearly two dozen models that weigh more than 6,000 pounds, including Ford Expeditions, Cadillac Escalades and GMC Envoys.

If Lafayette’s idea becomes law, the SUVs would have to travel interstate highways or other truck routes -- some of them toll roads -- with wider lanes and long stretches between exits. Now, large SUVs routinely travel meandering commuter roads with free access to residential areas.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration already classifies most sport utility vehicles as light trucks when gauging fuel efficiency.

Lafayette’s proposal is believed to be the first of its kind, said Melissa Savage of the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported in July that death rates rose significantly for SUV occupants in rollovers as compared to passenger cars. SUVs account for about 25 percent of all the vehicles sold in the United States, according to analysts.
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