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SUVs cause death to passenger car occupants in head-on crashes

In motor vehicle crashes involving SUVs and passenger cars, occupants in the passenger car are more likely to die, no matter how well rated their vehicle is in the government’s safety ratings. The problem lies in part in the tests used to determine the ratings and in the design of SUVs. The study from the University of Buffalo looked at 15 years of federal highway fatality data involving head on crashes.

The defective element of the design of SUVs is that their bumpers are often too high, and in  head-on collisions with passenger cars, the SUVs tends to ride up over the front end of the passenger vehicles and crush the occupants during the car crashes. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) test ratings are based on frontal, side barrier and side pole crashes, but assume vehicles of similar sizes and types.

The authors of the study suggest that the NHTSA safety rating may provide consumers with a "false degree of confidence," in the safety of their vehicle. The report notes that SUVs, which were prone to rollover in the 1980s and 1990s, have been improved, and are now much safer.

It appears auto manufacturers still have unfinished business in regard to improving the safety performance of these vehicles in collisions with other vehicles. NTHSA should improve standards for bumpers and work to ensure that crash and crumple zones are not rendered worthless by other vehicles overriding the car.

Improvements have been made to truck trailers, with stronger underride guards being required, and surely, the same can be done to prevent unnecessary head-on fatalities with SUVs.

Source: Claims Journal, "Passenger Car Drivers More Likely to Die in Crashes With SUVs Regardless of Safety Ratings," Denise Johnson, May 15, 2013

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