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 Edmunds.com. (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: autoinsurancequotes.com)
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