SUVs More Likely to Kill Other People

You might have seen news articles recently about a study saying SUVS are safer than other vehicles. The study only addressed the safety of people in the SUV, and failed to mention the very troubling fact that passengers in other vehicles hit by SUVs are more likely to die.

How much more likely to die? It depends on the information source, but one says sixteen times more likely and another says six times more likely. Additionally, in accidents involving SUVs and other passenger vehicles, nearly 98 percent of those who were killed were in the non-SUVs. Another source says pedestrians hit by SUVs have a 300 percent greater risk of serious injury than pedestrians struck by smaller cars like sedans. (Another study found that in fatal accidents involving SUVS, children inside them were 24 percent more likely to die, than if they were in minivans.)

So why do SUVs cause so much extra destruction? For one thing they typically weigh more, or much more. Combine their extra weight with the fact they are taller and have higher bumpers (sometimes also brush guards), and you can see how they function like large, heavy battering rams on wheels. A Hummer weighs over 8,000 pounds! The GMC Yukon four door is 5,500, and the Nissan Armada is 5,300.

Bumpers are designed to impact on the same level as the bumpers on other vehicles, but the higher bumpers and brush guards on SUVs result in hitting smaller vehicles above their bumpers where there is less protection. If you imagine an SUV hitting a mid-size sedan on the side, the SUVs front would be about shoulder and head-high for a person in the smaller vehicle. At this level, a person is more vulnerable to serious injury to the brain, neck, and chest organs such as the heart, lungs, and major arteries. SUVs typically also require more distance to slow down and stop, which makes them less able to avoid accidents.

Given the fact that in the U.S., nearly ninety percent of vehicles on the roads are not large vehicles, you can see how vulnerable their occupants are to damage from SUVs.

So why would the Institute for Highway Safety fail to not mention that SUVs are actually more dangerous for the the majority of motorists and pedestrians? Who knows exactly, it could have been an honest mistake. Another possible answer lies in the fact the Institute for Highway is funded by the auto insurance companies, and SUVS provide them with more revenue because they cost typically ten to twenty percent more to insure, which might not sound like a huge difference, but if fifteen million people are paying an extra $300 per year, that is $4.5 billion per year. If it was an extra $400 per year, then the total would $6 billion a year.

The Institute for Highway Safety definitely seems to have a conflict of interest; financially the auto insurers backing them stand to gain greatly from the public perception that SUVS are a good vehicle for consumers to buy. Just one example, if you buy a new GMC Yukon Denali, insurance for five years would cost nearly $9,000, according to (Fuel for the same period – a whopping $18,000). The true cost of ownership, including the sticker price, is $76,000 – and if you hit another vehicle and injure or kill someone else, the costs explode further. Also, imagine what happens to SUV insurance if you have any speeding tickets, accident history, or a DUI.

“Yes auto rates for SUVs are generally higher than for automobiles. Rates of course correlate to risk – and there are a lot of risk factors with SUVs. Not so much what affects them, but what they do to other vehicles, ” said Loretta L. Worters, vice president of communications for the Insurance Information Institute. (Source:

Why would the IIHS release the results of such a study now? It could be with high gas prices, people are shying away from gas guzzlers like SUVS, especially when they see they also have to pay extra for insurance. Also in tough times like these, spending extra is simply unwise. Additionally the growing green trend is likely having some dampening effect on the purchasing of very fuel-inefficient vehicles, when there are more sensible alternatives available like the hybrid Toyota Prius, Honda Civic, Jetta and Golf TDI, and electrics like the Nissan Leaf and new Ford Focus. This article is about the damage SUVS cause to people, but it must also be said they contribute more to climate change, simply due to the fact they require much more gasoline, and produce more CO2.

Image credit: Brady Holt

Related Links

SUVs May be Banned in Paris
Toyota Recalls 50,000 SUVs

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Michael C.
Michael C.4 years ago

Diane Prang, If suv' weren't bad enough, Saudi Arabia is allowing women to drive.

Don't misunderstand me but let us see if we have facts correct.
A suv with darkly tinted windows, driven by a woman wearing a full burka, including a heavy veil.

Stay turned to see what we uncover..........

Stäni S.
Stäni Steinbock4 years ago

The fact that Pam S. writes her comment in capital letters throughout tells something about her, doesn't it?

PAM S.4 years ago


PAM S.4 years ago


Doug G.
Doug G.4 years ago

My grandfather drove a '49 chevy 4 door car around in which he loaded coal for his stove, using it for multitudes of other duties, even in the winter. It seemed that 50 years ago, people didn't "need" huge four wheel drive, four door, diesel belching bohemiths or the SUV counterpart. The few times a year one needs four wheel drive often doesnt justify the expense. Diesels are still loud and stink and the cost of that fuel is ever increasing and many SUV's and pickups often contain one person and little cargo and are used as a comuter vehicle.
Gas prices are never going to get "cheap" again. If China and India" aspire to acquire" like the US, oil will always be in tight supplies in the future.
Living in the "burbs" or rural areas will be made more difficult, as a result. Too many people consuming too many resources is not sustainable. With those two countries in the mix, things will only get worse.
The real question is when the real cutbacks will materialize and put an end to the marketing crap so many have bought into concerning SUV's and pickups.

Michael C.
Michael C.4 years ago

Greg H, About mileage, why is it the US has such an monopoly on lowering the bar, year after year.

I would suggest you goggle what you vehicle is suppose to be getting per mile, as mandated by Washington. Of course, they always caved into the demands of the "auto makers" and lowered the requirements.

At 26 mpg, i would go to see my congressman, someone sold you a lemon at 26 mpg, it should be about 42 at this time. Good luck with that.

Throughout this entire body of post i have seen what is also visibly as with other topics. "There is no problem and if there were, i should be exempted".

I so often wonder. What did America do w/o suvs for all those decades, and all this time it thought penicillin or the polio vaccine were the greatest inventions of the past century. I am sure glad those suv owners straightened that out.

Sorry about the error in the error in the last line of paragraph 5,
it should have read, People don't own suvs, suvs own people, with high fueling cost, low mileage, terrible resale value, being that they are highly polluting, expensive to insure and that is just their good points.

If anyone wonders why it is suv, it is an effort to reduce the EGO size of the average user and abuser of an suv.

Greg H.
Greg H.4 years ago

SUV's do not kill people, negligent drivers do. Whether its an SUV or a pick up truck, you are not safer in a smaller vehicle. Make smart choices for yourself. The point that SUV's do more damage is not the issue. Being in a smaller vechile makes you more suceptable to injuries and death. Dont blame the other vehicle - blame the sammer vehicle for not protecting you as well as an SUV> Are you worried about that? Then drive an SUV. My SUV gets 26 MPG. Its not a gas hog.

Teresa Via
Teresa Via4 years ago

I think to stereotype all SUV drivers as people with big EGOs is a bit over the top. I've seen worse drivers in muscle cars, and some of the young drivers are pretty reckless too... I do agree with Richard that a tailgater in an SUV should have an automatic charge of reckless endangerment! In my experience though, other than the stopping distance, SUVs handle like a car. I also think that a tailgater in any vehicle should have an automatic charge of reckless endagerment... There are some circumstances where an SUV makes more sense that van for some families... just saying...

Richard S.
Past Member 4 years ago

If you live in a rural area, where offroad is a necessary part of live, then some form of 4x4 is if not necessary, very useful. Otherwise, the SUV is generally just a status simple, a case of "look what I've got!".
The article was in principle, not about of topic gas guzzling, but about the threat of being hit by an SUV.
Drivers of heavy freight are supposed to be trained and licenced to drive their vehicles appropriately. You need no such constraint to drive a big, heavy SUV, which may have a stopping distance near twice that of an ordinary family car at any given speed. People drive them like a car, and make no allowance for the extra momentum of such a heavy vehicle.
A tailgater in an SUV should have an automatic charge of reckless endangerment!

Michael C.
Michael C.4 years ago

Deborah Prang,

You are the possible exception the rule, but you already knew that, that still leaves millions of those infernal beast just like yours out there to terrorize the public.

No one is implying that your a bad person, possibly you just have not considered all your options.

This a human frailty shared by a of our species, known as man.

Just a parting thought, do you know why so many of us choose to drive much smaller vehicles, well, it is easy.

To make more room for BIG suvs can park diagonally in parking lots and stick out half way across the driving isle.

Remember, when a discussion is no longer a discussion, we call that an argument.

On the road again, me and my suv, we're on the road, again. Happy trails, partner. See ya at the gas station.