Bigger Is Better When It Comes to Safety in SUVs

February 16th, 2015 by David Beran

Amidst recalls for airbag malfunctions in Jeep Grand Cherokees, there is a silver lining for safety in SUVs. In a study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), nine 2011 model vehicles have a driver death rate of zero and the majority of the vehicles are SUV-types. Midsize cars or larger performed better, reversing a trend beginning about ten years ago that saw the safety rates of SUVs near the bottom.

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Midsize SUVs on the IIHS list are the Kia Sorento 2WD, the midsize Toyota Highlander Hybrid 4WD, the Volvo XC90 4WD and the Lexus RX 350 4WD. Large SUVs are the Toyota Sequoia 4WD and the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class 4WD.

Rollovers have dramatically declined over the last decade with the dynamic ride stabilization of electronic stability control (ESC), which detects and decreases a vehicle’s loss of traction. SUVs are obviously bigger and heavier than small and midsize cars and more mass favorably absorbs collision impact. Being above the plane of traffic and the impact plane where the force is significantly higher is another big factor.

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Other reasons for the SUV’s enhanced safety are debatable. “I’ve seen a lot of accidents, but the ones people mostly walk away from are in SUVs,” says California Tow Truck Association (CTTA) certified Recovery Specialist Michael Finch. He attributes most of it to the higher plane and lowered rollover risk, but also believes people driving larger vehicles are generally safer because although SUVs have a longer stopping distance, they don’t accelerate as fast. The increased control that comes with AWD and 4WD vehicles could also account for the findings, because fatal crashes often involve loss of control.

The 2017 Wrangler will have an aluminum body that will be lighter and thinner, but will be required to pass safety inspections. Smaller, two-seater smart cars have relatively worse safety records because even though the body shell is strong, drivers usually get shaken on impact.

David Beran is a Copywriter at 4 Wheel Parts who believes in safety first.

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About the Author: David Beran

As a professional inkspiller living in Los Angeles, I’ve written in industries ranging from entertainment to employment to automotive. Terrain I cover includes off-road events and races, budget builds, custom mods, EVs and the latest innovations in aftermarket 4x4 parts. I’m always eager to learn about new trends in 4x4s and my motto is “go off-road or go home.” Google+ is the destination for my dispatches: https://plus.google.com/+DavidBeran/posts.

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