New data suggests that SUV’s (short for “sport utility vehicle”) have become safer for other drivers to have them on the road.
The study was conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a research arm of the insurance industry. The study found that in 2000-2001, there were 44 deaths per million registered vehicles for occupants of cars or minivans weighing 3,000 to 3,499 pounds that were hit by SUVs of similar weight. This number has now decreased by nearly 64% to 16 deaths per million registered vehicles.
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SUVs became popular in the US about 20 years ago. With their popularity, we began to see the dangers that some of these vehicles posed to other drivers and passengers, especially in rollover accidents and when colliding with smaller vehicles. Their popularity created a push by regulators, safety advocates, and consumers to improve their safety to prevent rollovers and to make them safer when they collided with other vehicles.
Why the push to improve safety?
At the time, many SUVs and pickups rode much higher off the ground than smaller cars. Consequently, in a collision, the SUVs’ and trucks’ stiff frames collided with lower, weaker, parts of car frames. This created a huge disparity in the ability of car occupants to survive the crash.
Joseph M. Nolan, who was a co-author of the study, found the death rates for occupants of cars are now virtually the same whether the vehicle is hit by another car, or an SUV of similar weight. He said, “it used to be, pound for pound, trucks and SUVs were more deadly than cars.” But that appears no longer the case.
Trucks in comparison
These vehicles still could use improvement in collisions; however, the risk was narrowed significantly in 2008 -2009 compared with 2000-2001, the study found. Nonetheless, car occupants who collide with a pick-up truck, rather than a car, are still more likely to die in a collision.
The Good News
The US Department of Transportation has said that overall, highway fatalities have declined to the lowest rate since 1949.
Make sure your vehicle is operating safely by changing your tires regularly, checking important safety recalls on the vehicle you own, and always remember to wear your seatbelt!