Monday, 22 December 2003

SUV Safety

From a Wall Street Journal article today on federal fuel economy regulations, and the perverse incentives they create for auto makers:

While light trucks represent 36% of all registered vehicles, they are involved in about half of all two-vehicle crashes with passenger cars, highway safety regulators say. In such crashes, over 80% of those killed were in passenger cars.

So if you bought that SUV for “safety,” just keep in mind that you bought that safety at the expense of the safety of others.

And if you bought it just so you would look cool … well, you don’t.

UPDATE: James at OTB correctly points out that the statistics I cite don't make it clear to what degree the 80/20 death ratio in SUV-car crashes is a matter of a higher fatality rate in cars vs. a higher survival rate in SUVs, comparing with car-car crashes.

The source for the WSJ factoid wasn't hard to track down. It's from the Feb. 23 testimony of the Administrator of the NHTSA before a Senate commitee. Here's a better statistic that the WSJ should have used, one which does support my thesis:

When controlling for impact location, and comparing light trucks to passenger cars of comparable weight, we found that light trucks were more than twice as likely as a car to cause a fatality when striking a car.

Tuesday, 17 February 2004

More on SUV safety

Following up on a post of mine from December, Gregg Easterbrook has an good article on SUV safety at TNR online. Choice quote:

Georgetown University professor Ted Gayer, writing in the March issue of the technical publication Journal of Risk and Uncertainty—which is edited by W. Kip Viscusi of Harvard, who is one of the nation’s leading academic conservatives—finds that having lots of SUVs and pickup trucks on the road increases total fatalities, by causing more deaths not just in regular cars but more deaths inside the SUVs and pickup trucks, too.

And just in case you don’t trust that scurrilous Gregg Easterbrook, here are a few quotes from the number two result from Google for “auto insurance rates suvs,” at

With larger cars on the road, drivers of small cars are at risk when they’re involved in a side-impact collision with pickups or SUVs. SUVs and pickups are generally heavier and higher riding so their bumpers can be deadly to smaller cars on impact.

Minivans don’t pose as much of a threat because they don’t weigh as much as SUVs. Their bumpers are often the same height as many smaller sized cars.

Since SUVs, minivans, and light trucks can be hard to handle and can cause more damage in the event of an auto insurance claim, auto insurance rates for these vehicles tends to be higher than for smaller cars.

If you want to know whether a vehicle is safe, ask the auto insurance companies. It’s their business to know.