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Is being in an SUV or a Car Safer if you're in an Accident? Depends on the Nature of Your Accident

Crash-test ratings can give you peace of mind, but you need to make sure that you interpret the findings correctly

Making the decision to purchase a new vehicle is a big deal; therefore, you should be prepared to do your homework before making your final decision. Chances are you'll compare fuel mileage ratings and studies on what cars hold up best in a crash-test simulator—especially if you're purchasing a car for your family or if your 16-year-old is about to get on the road.

Although crash-test ratings provide helpful insights, they can sometimes be unreliable.

One example of where crash-test rating could be skewed is front-end crashes. Typically, these tests show cars of the same relative size hitting each other head-on. However, what happens if you're in a smaller vehicle and collide with a bigger one like an SUV? Research being done at the University of Buffalo could change the way we all think about crash-test results when purchasing a new car.

As the laws of physics show, lighter objects will always take the brunt in an impact.

University of Buffalo's Car Crash Findings

In head-on accidents involving a car and SUV, the U of B survey discovered that occupants in the car are 7.6 times more likely to be killed in the crash. Granted, the better crash-test rating a car has, the better it will fare in a head-on collision with an SUV; however, the drivers of the cars were still roughly 4.5 times more likely to be killed.

U of B's study focused only on the most severe head-on crashes in the hopes to see if there was a specific role the car type has on the survival rate of a crash. In this specific study, 83,251 cars were sampled.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety states that head-on crashes make up roughly half of deaths that occur in passenger vehicles. Furthermore, drivers of cars with at least a "good" rating in frontal crash tests are less likely to die (up to 46 percent) than those in vehicles rated poor. Likewise, those rated at least acceptable are 67 percent more likely to survive a crash than those in vehicles rated poor.

Just because you're more likely to survive a head-on crash in an SUV does not mean that you are automatically safer in general. For example, SUVs are more likely to rollover (which can be just as deadly) than a car with a lower center of gravity.

  • To reduce your risk of rollover in your SUV, you should make sure you choose a model that comes equipped with electronic stability control—a feature that has become mandatory as of 2012.

With the addition of electronic stability control, SUVs have become some of the safest cars to own—especially due to the reduction of rollovers and their ability to withstand frontal impacts. Moreover, consumers can gain a false sense of security about how safe the vehicle really is.

Tips on choosing a safe vehicle

It's true that heavier vehicles have an advantage against smaller vehicles; however, that doesn't mean that smaller vehicles are unsafe to drive. Car manufacturers are working hard to make all vehicles safer (even if there have been issues of late, like these instances involving Toyota). The best ways to ensure the vehicle you're driving is safe is to make sure your car has safety equipment that is up-to-date, including:

  • Curtain air bags
  • Stability control (especially if you're driving a larger vehicle)
  • Antilock brakes

Doing research before purchasing a vehicle is just one way that you can help reduce the chance you or a loved one will be injured while in your vehicle. However, accidents do happen (even with the best planning and precautions). Therefore, if you or a loved one is hurt in a head-on collision between your car and a larger SUV, please contact car accident attorneys at Knoxville's Gilreath & Associates.

In addition to information on car accidents, you can find other information our blog and Tennessee Personal Injury Guide.

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