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New Research: SUVs Not Safer than Cars for Children

New research from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia shows that children riding in SUVs have similar injury risks to children who ride in passenger cars.

The study, published today in the journal Pediatrics, found that an SUV’s increased risk of rolling over during a crash offset the safety benefits associated with larger, heavier-weight vehicles.

SUVs are becoming more popular as family vehicles because they can accommodate multiple child safety seats and their larger size may lead parents to believe SUVs are safer than passenger cars. However, people who use an SUV as their family vehicle should know that SUVs do not provide superior protection for child occupants and that age- and size-appropriate restraints and rear seating for children under 13 years are critically important because of the increased risk of a rollover crash.

—Dennis Durbin, MD, co-author

The study, part of an on-going research collaboration of Children’s Hospital and State Farm Insurance Companies, examined crashes reported to State Farm involving 3,933 child occupants between the ages of 0 and 15 years who were in either SUVs or passenger cars that were model year 1998 or newer.

Rollover contributes significantly to risk of injury in both vehicle types and occurred twice as frequently in SUVs. Children involved in rollover crashes were three times more likely to be injured than children in non-rollovers.

Children who were not properly restrained in a car seat, booster seat or seatbelt during an SUV rollover were at a 25-fold greater risk for injury as compared to appropriately restrained children.

Nearly half of the unrestrained children in these crashes (41%) suffered a serious injury versus only three percent of appropriately restrained children in SUVs. Overall, injury risk for appropriately restrained children in passenger cars is less than 2%.

In the 2005 Partners for Child Passenger Safety Fact and Trend Report, Children’s Hospital reported that SUVs in child-involved State Farm crashes increased from 15% in 1999 to 26% in 2004, while the percentage of passenger cars decreased from a high of 54% in 1999 to 43% in 2004. There was no or little growth in the percentage of minivans in the study population—24 percent in 2004.

Previous Children’s Hospital research has shown that, within each vehicle classification, larger heavier vehicles are generally safer. For instance, of all passenger car classifications, large and luxury cars feature lower child injury risk than mid-size or small passenger cars. Among SUVs, mid-size and small SUVs had similar injury risks, which were two times higher than large SUVs. Compact extended-cab pickup trucks present a unique risk to children—child occupants in the rear row of compact extended cab pick-ups face a five-fold increased risk of injury in a crash as compared to rear-seated children in all other vehicle types.

Partners for Child Passenger Safety (PCPS) is a research collaboration between The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and State Farm. As of February 2005, PCPS has created a database containing information on more than 377,000 crashes involving more than 557,000 children from birth through age 15 years. It is the world’s largest study of children in motor vehicle crashes.

(A hat-tip to Bob Oliver!)



tom deplume

So overall a child is 50% more likely to be injured in a SUV than a normal sized car.

Harvey D

Another research determined that a child passenger is 3X more likely to be seriously injured in a SUV accident than in a normal sized car. So much said for the preceived extra safety of SUVs. Secondly, in a vehicle to vehicle accident, an SUV will cause more serious injuries to car passengers and children. This seems to indicate that SUVs have an overall negative impact on car drivers/passengers safety and that of our children. Should SUVs safety be improved?


It depends alot of the suv and the data methods used.

Many suvs are sold on safety but far from all of them are. Those that are tend to be rather safe.

Also suvs protect against certain types of accidents like head on and rear endings.

While its alot more likely to roll as long as your belted in a rollover is only hurtful its rarely deadly. On the other hand an suv is about the only car that can take a rear ending from a semi and protect the children and if your gona get into a weather induced multi car pileup yiu realy want to be in the biggest car in it.

Anyway for parents that do thier homework and choose a safe suv an suv is very safe for 1-2 children as you can put em in the center of the car as far from impact as possible. Its also required by law almost if you have more then 5 kids as few minivans have enough room or seltbelts for 7 passengers and most minivans have VERY little space between the kids and something sideswiping you.

Also if your careful you can get an suv that bigger then a minivan yet has the same or even better milage.


I agree with the last comment. This is close to junk science, as there are vast differences in safety profiles of different SUVs (from very safe SUVs with side air bags to unsafe trucks) and cars.
It's too simplistic. You cant just lump all SUVs and all cars together.

Anyway, the bottom line is airbags and seatbelts will save you much more than lots of metal even though ... "Previous Children’s Hospital research has shown that, within each vehicle classification, larger heavier vehicles are generally safer."

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