SUV Owners of America Driven to Respond to Campaign

February 4, 2005

A nationwide SUV safety education campaign launched earlier in the week at the New York Central Park Zoo reportedly warrants some balance.

SUV Owners of America is applauding the efforts to educate drivers about the different handling characteristics of SUVs as compared to other vehicle types, but are reportedly concerned that media coverage of this launch has, once again, reportedly included inaccurate stereotyping and the repetition of misinterpreted safety data.

While SUVs have a higher center of gravity and therefore a greater propensity to rollover, data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) show that SUVs have the fewest occupant deaths of any other vehicle type. Further, larger vehicles in any vehicle class have lower fatality rates.

The best overall measure of a vehicle’s safety performance is the fatality rate for that vehicle type. Too often the focus is reportedly solely on one type of crash like rollovers as with the following factoid:

“Single-vehicle rollover crashes accounted for 47 percent of occupant deaths in SUVs in 2003 compared with 36 percent of deaths in pickups and 19 percent of deaths in cars.”

At face value, this is a true statement. But does it reveal the entire picture? Reportedly not. Yes, the percentage of “rollover” deaths in SUVs is higher than that of other vehicle types, but SUVs are reportedly nearly twice as protective of their occupants in all other types of crashes. Only about 3 percent of all crashes are rollovers. Since drivers cannot predict what kind of crash they may have they are better served by looking at the overall fatality rate of the vehicle type. And the fatality rate will reportedly vary with vehicle size.

Moreover, most rollover crashes need not be lethal events. Occupants of SUVs and all vehicles can reportedly improve their survival chances dramatically by taking the simple step of using safety belts.

Here’s the mostly unreported story about vehicle rollovers: Almost three-quarters of people killed in fatal rollover crashes, in various vehicle models, reportedly do not wear their safety belts.

Similarly, the government estimates that 66 percent of those non-belt users would be alive today had they simply buckled up. Every 1 percent increase in safety belt use would reportedly save 270 lives a year in the U.S.

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