Nearly half the 37 cars, vans and light trucks that have been crash-tested by the government this year would likely cause severe head injuries or death to their drivers in a 35 mph collision.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Wednesday released its final report on 1988 crash tests with results showing drivers of vans and light trucks were at high risk of severe head injuries in a crash.Drivers of compact cars were least likely to have severe head injuries, the agency's figures showed.

Seventeen of the 1988 vehicles tested produced a head-injury criterion above 1,000, levels that show a high chance of severe head injury or death.

The Chevrolet G-20 van showed the greatest likelihood of head injury to the driver, with an index of 3,665. The Mazda 929 4-door car, a large and midsize model, showed the least likelihood, with an index of 273.

Tests of nine subcompact cars found five with an index of more than 1,000. The average for the nine vehicles was 966.

Subcompact cars showing the greatest chance of head injury in criteria reported by NHTSA were the Dodge Colt 4-door station wagon, 1,354; Nissan Pulsar NX 2-door hatchback, 1,134; Volkswagen Fox 2-door, 1,114; Ford Festiva 2-door, 1,014; and the Toyota Tercel 2-door hatchback, 1,005.

Compact cars most likely to cause head injury were the Peugeot 505 GLS 4-door, 1,701, and the Nissan Sentra 4-door wagon, 1,047.

Large and midsize cars with head-injury criteria exceeding 1,000 were the Renault Medallion 4-door, 1,656; Buick Park Avenue 4-door, 1,467; and the Chrysler New Yorker, 1,362.

Trucks and vans showing the greatest likelihood of head injury were the Chevrolet G-20 van, 3,665; Isuzu Spacecab pickup, 1,873; Chevrolet Astro Van, 1,603; Nissan NL LEV pickup, 1,528; Mitsubishi Montero 4x4, 1,320; Volkswagen Vanagon, 1,320; and the Ford F-150 pickup, 1,074.

Vehicles with head-injury criteria exceeding 1,000 must be redesigned before being placed on the market.