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Fatality rates in SUV versus car crashes fall

September 27, 2011 |  9:00 pm

SUV crash

Crashes involving sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks are less likely to result in fatalities to  occupants of cars and minivans, according to a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Accidents involving the big vehicles and cars and minivans in the past were more likely to kill the occupants of the smaller vehicles than crashes between autos of the same class and weight segments. But that’s no longer the case because of improved crash protection in cars and minivans.

Safety features such as side air bags and stronger auto structures, as well as newer designs of SUVs and pickups that better align front-end energy-absorbing portions of the vehicles with similar sections in cars, have reduced deaths.

The changes represented a joint effort among safety regulators, automakers and the insurance industry to design vehicles that reduced fatal accidents between mismatched vehicles, the insurance trade group said.

According to the trade group’s data, SUVs were involved in crashes that killed car and minivan occupants at a rate of 44 deaths per million registered vehicle years in 2000-01. That rate dropped by nearly two-thirds to 16 in 2008-09.

And that was slightly below the 17 per million fatality rate in 2008-09 for crashes between cars and minivans with other cars and minivans.

The "report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is the latest evidence that we are improving safety on America’s roadways," said David Strickland, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

He said the improvement represented a “collaborative effort” by automakers and NHTSA to match the front-end bumper heights of light trucks with those of smaller passenger vehicles.

Safety features are making crashes "significantly more survivable,” he said.


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Photo: Emergency personnel investigate the scene of an accident involving an SUV on Sept. 5 in Cochecton, N.Y. Police say three people were killed. Credit: Associated Press.