US automakers have been condemned for running ads promoting fast cars and loose safety issues.

Groups such as the National Highway Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have criticised advertisements for several brands of car including Volvo, Mercedes and Toyota trucks, which appear to glorify high speed and performance.

The head of the IIHS, Brian O'Neill, believes that the "ads contribute to an attitude in this country that speed is sort of a game and fun and not a safety problem."

As modern technology enables the production of highly efficient engines and lightweight vehicles, acceleration rates and swiftness have increased in parallel. And it seems that automakers just can't keep quiet about the potential of their cars, even though the maximum speeds now possible can only be legally attained on a racetrack.

The US government has also come under fire for its lax approach to regulation. Although certain safety aspects are promoted by federal regulators, such as the wearing of seat belts and clamping down on drink-driving, the Governors Highway Safety Association thinks they should do more and calls for 'national leadership' on tackling speed.

Of the 43,220 deaths on US roads in 2003, the highest number since 1990, the NHTSA suggests that two-thirds could be attributed to 'aggressive driving' such as speeding and careless overtaking.

Data sourced from: The Washington Post Online; additional content by WARC staff