SUVs may save you – but kill others

Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) provide greater safety and support to those in the car, but it’s a different story for everyone else

Photos: Euro NCAP


It’s a blanket statement that some would refrain from making, but researchers from the University at Buffalo (UB) have found that “passenger-car drivers are more likely to die in crashes with SUVs, regardless of crash safety ratings”.

The damning statistics are as follows (source: University at Buffalo, State University of New York) :

– Passenger-car drivers were ten times more likely to die in a head-on collision with a SUV (that is if the SUV has a better crash rating) and

– In the same scenario, passenger-car drivers were more likely to die even if their cars had a better crash rating than the SUV, and

– (Source: University of California) Every life saved in a large vehicle came at the expense of 4.3 dead pedestrians, motorcyclists and car drivers.

First reported in the National Post, UB’s 15-year study included over 80,000 vehicles involved in head-on crashes, and the conclusion is chilling: The big boys kill, regardless of ratings.

Crossovers have higher bumpers, they have stiffer frames and they are of course heavier. These three factors combine to ensure that SUVs will, more likely than not, ride over shorter vehicles in head-on collisions, causing more fatalities.

But these deadly features are also why SUVs are safer for the driver and his/her passengers.

Another research from UB have calculated that “for every 454-kilogram increase in weight, vehicles were 19 percent safer”. These are numbers a discerning driver should know, but the destruction an SUV causes in its bid to save the driver (and the occupants inside) is another point to consider.

With all that said, the role of crash safety ratings in cars shouldn’t be discounted.

While it does  “provide a false degree of confidence to the buyer”, UB professor of emergency medicine Dietrich Jehle notes that cars (in general) with a IIHS crash rating of five stars have a 7-36 percent decrease in driver death rates.

Now here’s where it gets a bit more comforting for SUV owners in Singapore.

Crossovers/SUVs here are generally smaller than those in North America (where UB’s research is based) – a ‘mid-sized SUV’ such as a Mercedes-Benz GLE there is a large one here. But the principles of an SUV being taller and heavier still sticks true in the local context, so it’s still something all drivers should be aware of.

about the author

Loo Hanwei
Hanwei is the newest member of the CarBuyer Singapore team, and the only member to admit to actually watching football for personal enjoyment. He has never been mistaken for a Korean rapper, but the day is surely approaching fast.