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Safety Impacts of SUVs, Vans, and Pickup Trucks in Two-Vehicle Crashes

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Policy makers, vehicle manufacturers, and consumers have shown growing concern about the relative safety of sport utility vehicles (SUVs), vans, pickups, and cars. Empirical analysis of real-world crashes is complicated by the possibility that apparent relationships between vehicle type and safety may be confounded by other factors, such as driver behavior and crash circumstances. This study compares different vehicle types with respect to their crashworthiness (self-protection) and aggressivity (risk to others) in crashes between two passenger vehicles. The U.S. Crashworthiness Data System is used to analyze detailed information on 6,481 drivers involved in crashes during 1993–1999. Logistic regression analysis is used to model the risk of serious injury or death to a driver, conditional on a crash occurring. Covariates include the body type of each vehicle in the crash; the driver's age, gender, and restraint use; and the configuration of the crash. A unique feature of this study is the use of “delta-v” to represent the joint effects of vehicle mass and crash severity. While estimated effects are somewhat sensitive to the injury severity level used as the outcome variable, SUVs, vans, and pickups appear to be more aggressive and may be more crashworthy than cars. Effects of pickups are most pronounced. Drivers in pickups face less risk of serious injury than car drivers (odds ratio [OR], 0.35; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.20–0.60), and drivers who collide with pickups experience more than twice the risk than those who collide with a car (OR, 2.18; 95% CI, 1.03–4.62). While vehicle mass and crash severity contribute to the apparent crashworthiness and aggressivity of passenger vehicles, other vehicle characteristics associated with body type (e.g., the stiffness and height of the underlying structure of the vehicle) also influence safety risks.

Keywords: Aggressivity; crash severity; crashworthiness; motor vehicle; sport utility vehicle

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1539-6924.00343

Publication date: August 1, 2003

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