New findings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reveal that modern SUVs are less deadly to passenger cars and minivans. The report says that design changes to large vehicles like SUVs, as well as to regular passenger cars, have reduced the fatality rate in accidents between large and small vehicles.
Previously, large vehicles were more likely to kill passengers in smaller vehicles because the higher ride height of SUVs “overrode” the safety structures of smaller vehicles like sedans and minivans. However, in 2003 the IIHS worked with the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers to develop standards to improving the “crash compatibility” of large and small vehicles.
For larger vehicles, that meant either lowering the vehicle’s ride height, lowering the bumpers, or adding additional crash structures lower in the vehicle. At the same time, manufacturers of smaller cars improved crash structures and added features like side-impact airbags. The IIHS says that 54 percent of SUVs sold in 2004 met the new front-end requirements, while by 2007, 81 percent of all new SUVs and met the standards.
“By working together, the automakers got life-saving changes done quickly,” said IIHS chief administrative officer Joe Nolan. “The new designs have made a big difference on the road.”
As a result, fatalities in passenger cars and minivans hit by SUVs dropped dramatically. From 2000-2001, such impacts caused 44 deaths per million registered vehicle years. By 2008-2009, that rate had dropped to just 16 deaths per million registered vehicle years.
That means that SUVs and trucks killed people in passenger cars at a lower rate than other small cars. From 2008-2009, the IIHS reports that cars or minivans colliding with other cars or minivans caused a fatality rate of 17 deaths per million registered vehicle years.
The new report is the second recent finding by the IIHS that SUVs may be safer than traditional passenger cars. In June, the Institute revealed that SUVs now have a lower driver fatality rate than many other types of cars. Traditionally, safety groups argued that SUVs were more dangerous than traditional cars and minivans, but safety improvements and stability control have made SUVs statistically safer.
For more on the report’s findings, watch the short video below.