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Are SUVs Dangerous Vehicles?

Thursday 24 July 2008

Are SUVs Dangerous Vehicles?

The answer to this question when linked to NZ injury-related accidents is a qualified “no” according to University of Otago Wellington research published in the international journal Accident Analysis and Prevention.

Public health researcher Dr Michael Keall, together with researchers from the Monash University Accident Research Centre, investigated 17,245 injury-related crashes involving passenger vehicles in NZ in 2005 and 2006 and found that SUVs are not generally dangerous, possibly because of the way they are driven, and the people who own them.

“Previous research has shown some clear negatives about SUVs in terms of safety, but they are not as unsafe as many people make out,”says Dr Keall. “However there are three key factors which do compromise their safety record which have been established by research here and overseas.”

 The first factor is that they are dangerous in the hands of young drivers, probably because of their inexperience as drivers and the instability of 4WDs

 they are more prone to rollover crashes which lead to particularly severe injuries for drivers and passengers

 thirdly SUVs are more dangerous to other motorists; particularly pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists who are harmed by the high bonnets and rigid structures.

“This means that if you are looking for a really safe vehicle for you and other road users, you wouldn’t generally choose a SUV as it is not the best vehicle on the road in terms of overall road safety.”

“When it comes to that decision my recommendation is to choose a stable, crashworthy vehicle, with multiple safety features such as airbags, and which is less likely to do harm to other road users. Some guidance on this is available on the Land Transport New Zealand web site ”

However Dr Keall says that SUVs relative to other vehicle types are less involved in accidents because of how they are driven and how they are used. In contrast to 4WDs, the study found that sports cars have the worst safety record of all vehicles, with the greatest injury to users and other people on the road. It is likely that sports car drivers tend to take additional risk when provided with high levels of performance and acceleration.

This research was funded by Land Transport New Zealand, the New Zealand Automobile Association, Road Traffic Authority of NSW, Royal Automobile Club of Victoria Ltd, NRMA Ltd, VicRoads, Royal Automobile Club of Western Australia Ltd, Transport Accident Commission, the Road Safety Council of Western Australia and by a grant from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau


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