Forget The Safety Ratings – SUVs Are Safer Than Cars

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
Even if a car has a better safety rating than an SUV, the driver in the smaller vehicle is more likely to be the one killed in a head-on collision between the two different types of automobiles, according to research being presented Thursday at the annual meeting of the Society of Academic Emergency Medicine (SAEM) in Atlanta.
While consumers often view crash safety ratings as a way to gauge how safe an automobile will be in an accident, researchers from the University of Buffalo have determined that vehicle type plays a much more important role when it comes to the odds of survival.
They found that if a car crashes into an SUV with a better crash rating, the drivers of the smaller vehicle were ten times more likely to be killed. However, even if the car had a better safety rating than the SUV, the driver of the car was still over four times more likely to die in the accident.
“When two vehicles are involved in a crash, the overwhelming majority of fatalities occur in the smaller and lighter of the two vehicles,” said Dietrich Jehle, a professor of emergency medicine at the university and first author of the study.
“But even when the two vehicles are of similar weights, outcomes are still better in the SUVs, because in frontal crashes, SUVs tend to ride over shorter passenger vehicles, due to bumper mismatch, crushing the occupant of the passenger car,” he added.
Eliminating crash safety ratings from their considerations and looking only at fatality data, the researchers found that the odds of death for drivers in passenger cars were over seven-times higher than SUV drivers in all head-on collisions.
In accidents involving two cars, the one with the lower safety rating was linked with a 1.28 times increased risk of death for the driver, and a driver was found to be 1.22 times more likely to die in a head-on wreck for every point of reduction in that vehicle´s crash safety rating.
Information from all severe head-on crashes listed in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) database between 1995 and 2010 was used for the study. According to the researchers, that database contains all motor vehicle crashes that resulted in a death within 30 days, and includes 83,521 vehicles that were involved in head-on collisions.
“Along with price and fuel efficiency, car safety ratings are one of the things that consumers rely on when shopping for an automobile,” Jehle said. Those ratings, he explained, range from one to five stars and are based on collected data from frontal, side barrier and side pole crashes that compare vehicles of similar type, size and weight.
The ratings system was first established by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 1978.
“Currently, the larger SUVs are some of the safest cars on the roadways with fewer rollovers and outstanding outcomes in frontal crashes with passenger vehicles,” Jehle explained.
“Passenger vehicles with excellent safety ratings may provide a false degree of confidence to the buyer regarding the relative safety of these vehicles as demonstrated by our findings. Consumers should take into consideration the increased safety of SUVs in head-on crashes with passenger vehicles when purchasing a car.”