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New SUV designs decrease danger on roadways

Posted: September 28, 2011 - 12:39PM
Author: KC Kelly
Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) have, for many years, been getting a bad rap for being dangerous as far as rolling over, being involved in collisions and even causing serious injuries and fatalities. However, a new design change in the SUV has cut down on the danger of the automobile as far getting into collisions with other vehicles.


A new analysis of federal data concluded that the newer Sports Utility Vehicles aren't as dangerous and aren’t causing as many fatalities to passengers as they have in the past twenty years. This analysis suggests that United States automakers have taken grand measures to get to the bottom of once unresolved issues as to why SUVs were causing such safety issues on the highways.

The statistical facts gathered from studies that were done on SUVs that were four-years-old showed that the fatality rates for those who drove or rode in cars or minivans weighing 3,000 to 3,499 pounds and were hit by SUVs of similar weight dropped by nearly 64 percent. This translates to 16 fatalities per million registered vehicles.

The time period of the study was for two years; 2008-2009. Fatalities went down from 44 deaths per million vehicles in the 2000-2001 period, according to a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a research arm of the insurance industry.

The change in safety of the Sports Utility Vehicle was credited to WSJ's Joe White who reports design changes in the SUVs. They have significantly reduced the fatality rate in accidents involving sport utility vehicles, according to the aforementioned study.

Joseph M. Nolan, IIHS's chief administrative officer and a co-author of the study shared that in the more recent period, the fatality rates for occupants of cars are virtually the same whether the vehicle is hit by another car, or an SUV of similar weight. He stated, "It used to be, pound for pound, pickups and SUVs were more deadly than cars. There's more work to do with pickups."

The study also showed that those driving in pickup trucks that hit SUVs are more likely to suffer fatal crashes than if in a regular car. However, the risk narrowed significantly in 2008-2009 as compared with statistics taken in 2000-2001.

What seemed to be causing fatalities when hit by SUVs in cars or pickup trucks was that many SUVs and pickups have rigid frame rails that ride higher off the ground than most cars. Why they are so dangerous is because when in a crash, the trucks' stiff frames would collide into the thinner sheet metal in the doors, as opposed to if the vehicle rode lower, it would crash into the stronger, lower parts of car frames. Hitting the stronger lower part of the car is obviously dangerous, but much less dangerous.

It began in the mid-2000s, when auto makers began to redesign the SUVs and trucks to make them less fatally dangerous to cars. The vehicles started to come equipped with head protecting side airbags and other technology to protect those driving in the automobiles. The automakers also improved the use of stability control technology to help decrease and even prevent skidding and rollovers.