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UB study finds passenger car drivers more likely to die in crashes with SUVs, regardless of crash safety ratings

15 May 2013

A new University at Buffalo (UB) study of crashes involving cars and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) has found that in head-on collisions between passenger cars and SUVs, drivers in passenger cars were nearly 10 times more likely to die if the SUV involved had a better crash rating. Drivers of passenger cars were more than four times more likely to die even if the passenger car had a better crash rating than the SUV. The study is being presented 16 May at the annual meeting of the Society of Academic Emergency Medicine in Atlanta.

When two vehicles are involved in a crash, the overwhelming majority of fatalities occur in the smaller and lighter of the two vehicles. 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.

— Dietrich Jehle, MD, UB professor of emergency medicine at Erie County Medical Center and first author

When crash ratings were not considered, the odds of death for drivers in passenger cars were more than seven times higher than SUV drivers in all head-on crashes. In crashes involving two passenger cars, a lower car safety rating was associated with a 1.28 times higher risk of death for the driver and a driver was 1.22 times more likely to die in a head-on crash for each point lower in the crash rating.

The UB researchers conducted the retrospective study on severe head-on motor vehicle crashes in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) database between 1995 and 2010. The database includes all motor vehicle crashes that resulted in a death within 30 days and includes 83,521 vehicles involved in head-on crashes.

Along with price and fuel efficiency, car safety ratings are one of the things that consumers rely on when shopping for an automobile, Jehle notes. These ratings, from one to five stars, are based on data from frontal, side barrier and side pole crashes that compare vehicles of similar type, size and weight. The one to five star safety rating system was created in 1978 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Jehle notes that after manufacturers addressed the roll-over problem with SUVs that plagued these vehicles in the 1980s and 1990s, rollover crashes are now much less common in SUVs.

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.

—Dietrich Jehle

Jehle says that prior studies on frontal crashes have found that compared to passenger cars with a 5-star crash rating, cars with a rating from one to four stars have a 7-36% increase in driver death rates.

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.

—Dietrich Jehle

Co-authors with Jehle, all from UB, are: Albert Arslan and Chirag Doshi, MD candidates in the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences; Joseph Consiglio, data manager/statistician for the UB Department of Emergency Medicine and a graduate student in the Department of Biostatistics in the School of Public Health and Health Professions; Juliana Wilson DO, a post-doctoral scholar in the Department of Emergency Medicine and Christine DeSanno DO, a resident in the UB Department of Emergency Medicine.

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It's like there were all these vehicles all the road and then a different one came out that used twice as much gas and was seven times as likely to kill others in a crash.

Large SUVs, heavy Pick-ups, over-sized Hummers and copy cats are real people crushers. The 200+% insurance surcharge is not enough to pay the extra fatalities, injuries and damages. They should have their own 'crushing road' system? Cars and crushers do not mix very well?

http://cleantechnica.com/2013/04/23/the-catchlight-chevron-biofuel-project-stalls-out/

“Who Killed $2.18 Gasoline?”

This was the case long ago with full sized vans and normal cars its the case with a lot of things like even relatively small jeeps and any truck. In a front on collision your toast if your going up against anything taller then you no matter what it is.

This just points to the obvious the lower your bumper and front end the more dead your gona be.

This is why I have long advocated that regular passenger cars be lowered, become more wedge shaped, be capable of moving lower upon impact and be capable of sustaining the full load of an SUV. This would basically flip the SUVs into the ditch and leave the passenger car relatively untouched.

For this reason, banning SUV's will save far more lives than banning "assault" rifles, yet, Congress chose to ban the latter, in complete ignorance of fatality statistics and in violation of the Second Amemendment.

Rifles of all types are essential for home defense and the defense of the Constitution, yet are assocciated with the loss of only a few hundred lives yearly, while SUV's killed thousands if not over ten thousands lives yearly while serving no better purpose than a minivan or a station wagon!

Not only are passenger cars much more likely to fare poorly in a collision with a SUV, but if you are a pedestrian, cyclist or motorcyclist, you are pretty much toast.

Your odds of surviving are much better if you are in a collision with a shorter vehicle.

Insurance rates should be more significantly correlated with the damage you might cause to others based on the type of vehicle you drive.

Too many people buy themselves the biggest, tallest vehicles they can afford - unfortunately many people are psychopaths.

stats...over 30,000 people die from gun shots every year in USA and about 6 times as many as injuries. It is not insignificant.

That's about the same as for the Vietnam war every two years.

@HarveyD,

But only 300 died from rifles yearly in the USA. The rest died from hand guns.
From Wikipedia: "In 2010, there were 19,392 firearm-related suicide deaths, and 14,078 firearm-related homicide deaths in the United States.[7]"
Suicide deaths are not threat to society, only gun homocide deaths, and the number is decreasing steadily. Without guns, people will use other means to kill each other, such as swords, knifes, ropes, poisons, hatchets, baseball bats, even by bare hands (martial arts). In fact, if I'm going to kill someone, I would not use a gun because it is too loud. Much easier to use a taser to shock someone to death at a distance.

Banning guns will lower rates of gun-related deaths, but will not lower the rates of neither homicides nor suicides. People kill people. Bad people should be banned, without depriving the means of self-defense of good people.

Many are not at ease with all those bullets flying around. Arming the teachers and students will not solve the real problem.

Aggressiveness is rising fast and if you put a gun, rifle or machine gun in everybody's hand, you may end up with a bigger Syria, to write home about.

Going back to 'Cowboy days' may not be a good step forward?

Many thousand school kids equipped with machine guns + powerful synthetic drugs could make Syria look like small play. That may be what is coming but I wish it doesn't.

Relax, HD, the rates of overall violence, including gun violence, have decreased to half since the last few decades. There is no need to impose any new anti-gun legislation that will serve no good purpose. Far more lives can be saved by simply banning the SUV's!

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