Driving a safe SUV - Jay Maynard

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Thursday, 17 March 2005


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1006 - Driving a safe SUV

Money Magazine is running a story that reports the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's lists of safest vehicles as measured by deaths per registered vehicle per year.

Some SUVs are, as you might guess, low on the list - the 2-door Ford Explorer, for example, comes in at 134 per million registered vehicle-years. SUVs in general fare worse than large sedans.

However, one cannot generalize from that to say that all SUVs are unsafe. 3 of the top 5, and 4 of the top 10, are SUVs. The safest was the Mercedes E-class at 10 deaths per million registered vehicle-years. The Toyota 4Runner midsize SUV was right behind it at 12.

The Lexus RX was #4, at 16, and the Toyota RAV4 was #5, at 17. I liked my RAV4, and love my RX300, and now I've got another reason why.

current mood: [mood icon] pleased
current music: Steve Winwood - Arc of a Diver

(18 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:unspeakablevorn
Date: - 0000
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Is this deaths of passengers in the vehicle, or deaths of passengers in any vehicle involved in the accident?

Vorn
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From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000
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From reading the story in Money again, it appears that they counted deaths of those in the vehicle in question.
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From:unspeakablevorn
Date: - 0000
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I think the latter would be a considerably more interesting measure.
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From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000
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Given the objectives of the IIHS study, that's a bit outside the parameters. They were out to see how different vehicles fared in protecting their own occupants.

Perhaps it would be interesting to those who would limit the choices others can make when selecting vehicles. I can see little other use for it.
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From:unspeakablevorn
Date: - 0000
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It would be interesting to those interested in making cars safe on the outside, too.

Vorn
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From:shelbystripes
Date: - 0000
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Man, you really think SUV drivers care about the occupants of any vehicle other than their own?
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From:foolscap001
Date: - 0000
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While I admit to never having asked, I know of nobody who makes a point of buying a car with an eye to sacrificing themselves and their family in case of a collision.
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From:shelbystripes
Date: - 0000
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That extreme doesn't really prove any point, other than that nobody goes to that extreme.
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From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000
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It is, however, the logical conclusion of the argument that people should consider what happens to those in other vehicles in accidents they're involved in.
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From:shelbystripes
Date: - 0000
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Only if, as I pointed out, you are going to go to extremes, and since nobody's demanding that extreme, this is a non-point.
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From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000
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Even a little way in that direction is a serious abdication of one's responsibility to one's loved ones, for it implies accepting a higher risk of death of one's own family to lower someone else's.
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From:shelbystripes
Date: - 0000
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It's possible to say "This vehicle is safe, and yet is less likely to kill someone else if I hit another car." You can find something that does both. You're pushing extremes again.
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From:shelbystripes
Date: - 0000
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Oddly, another article on the same story suggests that big SUVs aren't nearly as safe overall even in protecting their own passengers:

If a big vehicle hits a small vehicle, it's safer to be in the big vehicle. But a smaller vehicle might better avoid the crash in the first place. Half of all auto deaths in the U.S. are caused by single-vehicle crashes, and those are more likely in big vehicles, including SUVs.


Half of all auto-deaths are from single-vehicle crashes, and those happen more often in big SUVs. I wonder why that is? Logically, it would be because people are choosing to drive something that is larger than they need, and has worse handling than something smaller that would still suit their needs, because of some perception of "safety". Even a smaller SUV would be a better choice, and yet people pick these big vehicles, and worse, often don't understand that you have to drive a larger and taller vehicle more cautiously than a smaller one because of the larger mass, higher roll center, and lesser handling performance.

And, of course, even with smaller SUVs, you're going to end up being safer in something with a lower roll center; something a lot of people also don't understand is that while a taller vehicle makes for better off-road performance, if you're buying a vehicle for city or highway driving, it's less safe to have something like that.

It's worth noting that the highest death rate of any vehicle came from an SUV, and not even the biggest one; it was a Chevy Blazer, and the majority of deaths in it came from rollovers.

So it seems like SUVs are less safe in terms of general driving because it's much easier to lose control of your own vehicle in one, making it a lot less likely that you can avoid an accident, which is another factor that has to be considered in buying a vehicle.

And one can in fact generalize that SUVs are more unsafe than a car of similar size due to the SUV's higher roll center, making the SUV less safe even if the vehicle weight and braking distance numbers between the SUV and car are identical. SUVs have a natural and obvious safety disadvantage to them that is often ignored because of the typical American mentality that bigger is better...
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From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000
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Your argument falls apart quite simply: Why are the Toyota SUVs mentioned safer than the platforms they're derived from? (The Lexus RX (and Toyota Highlander) are derived from the Lexus ES; the RAV4 is derived from the Corolla, IIRC. The 4Runner is derived from the small pickup.)

You simply can't generalize. There are too many counterexamples.
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From:shelbystripes
Date: - 0000
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As the article suggests, in those cases it likely has more to do with the driver than the car.
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From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000
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The article also says that small pickups have lower overall rates than SUVs, likely because of thow they are driven. That works against your point for the 4Runner. I can't believe the RX/Highlander are being driven more sanely than the ES, or the RAV4 more sanely than the Corolla, either.
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From:shelbystripes
Date: - 0000
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I can easily believe the Highlander's driven more sanely than the Lexus ES; the Lexus ES is often bought as a status car by people with relatively low incomes for its price range and driven around as a status symbol. (These cars are often seen with "dubs" on them where the wheels are large and the tire wall relatively small as a result, yielding drastically reduced handling performance, and making the cars unsafe just for the sake of "looking good", for example.) People who buy something they can barely afford, slap things on them that they feel "look good" at the expense of vehicle handling and therefore safety, are easily what would fall into the "less responsible" category of driver.

This is especially as compared to the Highlander, which has no "status" to it other than for its practicality in terms of interior space and gas mileage, and therefore is much more likely to have a more practical mindset of driver behind the wheel.

It's rather easy to believe that, for example, the Highlander is driven more sanely than the ES, for the reasons I gave. And the driver certainly does play into it. However, my original point was for vehicle against vehicle, and it still stands. If you put equally responsible drivers behind the wheel, it'd be easier to avoid an accident in a car than a similar SUV, and that's just common sense to anyone that understands vehicle handling characteristics.
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From:eamethan
Date: - 0000
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Whenever I hear a report like this my eyes start roll. There really is no perfect way to gauge these things. We know some cars are not safer than others, and people who drive certain cars drive a particular way (i.e. the firebird analogy). Knowing all that I still will read the article, and form my own opinions. What disturbs me is the attitude (that I at least percieve) from the SUV drivers that they are the most important person on the road. I give you this statement from the article,

"The report noted that most deaths in big cars or minivans involved another vehicle, while most fatalities in SUVs were single vehicle or roll-over accidents."

It makes you think about what types of vehicles may have crashed into the cars or minivans? Could it have been a tank SUV? You may killed a family of four with your monster truck SUV, but at least you walked away safe? I just don't understand the attitude myself. Sure you want to protect your family in everyway possible even if you have to flatten a family of with your big SUV. I can understand that logic, but I just would ask myself before using that logic as to whether you only just are adding to what is already a problem.

Now don't go yelling at me saying I don't understand SUVs. In fact I would say I understand them just fine. I'm not crying for a ban on SUV's. Some people need an SUV for work or because they live in environment which dictates the need for that type of vehicle. It just seems like a good 95% of the SUV's on the road are there for the wrong reasons, and I wish there were more people who took purchasing a car more seriously.

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