AP story cites NHTSA study: You're safer than you think in your truck or SUV!

Study: Compact Cars Have High Death Rates By KEN THOMAS Associated Press Writer
January 30, 2006, 9:04 PM EST
WASHINGTON -- People love compact cars as gas prices soar, but there's a sobering cost: The government says they have the highest fatality rate.
Compacts had a fatality rate of 17.76 per 100,000 vehicles in 2004, followed by compact pickup trucks with 16.87 and subcompact vehicles with 16.85, according to a report Monday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Large vans had the lowest rate, 9.34, while pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles had rates of about 15 deaths.
The report examined fatality data from 1997 to 2004 to compare death rates among different types of vehicles. It reaffirmed past studies that found smaller and lighter vehicles more vulnerable to fatalities compared with their counterparts.
"You can never repeal the laws of physics, and a smaller, lighter vehicle is always at a disadvantage no matter how many safety features are built into it," said Russ Rader, a spokesman for the Virginia-based Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
In crashes involving rollovers, mid-size sport utility vehicles had a fatality rate of nearly 10 deaths per 100,000 registered vehicles in 2004, giving it the highest rate among automobiles in rollovers. Full-size passenger cars had the lowest rate in rollovers.
Overall, the data found fatality rates mostly declining since the late 1990s in every vehicle classification. Death rates in all passenger cars dropped from 16.9 per 100,000 vehicles in 1997 to 14.2 in 2004.
"Manufacturers are constantly enhancing the performance of vehicles in crashes," said Rob Strassburger, vice president of safety for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.
With gasoline prices well over $2 around the nation and more interest in fuel-efficient alternatives like compacts and hybrids, automakers are expected to offer more options in the economy car category.
The Power Information Network, an affiliate of auto industry analyst J.D. Power and Associates, expects compact and subcompact cars to grow from 33 vehicles currently to 40 in 2010.
Several small cars were on display at the recent North American International Auto Show in Detroit, including the Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit and Nissan Versa. Sales of the Chevrolet Aveo, General Motors Corp.'s economy car, were up 21 percent in 2005, according to Autodata Corp.
Rader, whose organization has conducted similar studies, said even with "all the air bags in the world," smaller and lighter vehicles in a category typically have higher death rates than larger models in the same category.
A group representing SUV owners said rollovers represent a small portion of crashes and noted that the majority of people killed in rollover deaths were not wearing seat belts.
"The best barometer for consumers is to look at the overall fatality rate, not just one particular crash mode," said Ron DeFore, spokesman for the Sport Utility Vehicle Owners of America.
Ron DeFore Communications Director SUV Owners of America http://www.suvoa.org
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Not surprising from 'SUV owners of America'... but they miss a couple important facts; safety has alot to do with driving skills, speed, road conditions, and respect for other drivers. Smaller autos are more maneuverable, making it easier to avoid others less concerned about the millions on the road that careless drivers seem to ignore. I have both a long-bed Silverado, and a small Nissan pickup... I feel safer in the Nissan because I'm more able to avoid the idiots one encounters on an almost daily basis.
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The point you are missing is that regardless of driving skills, if you are involved in an accident, you are safer in a larger vehicle. Anyone that thinks that their driving skills precludes them from being in an accident is a fool.
Dave
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Bingo Dave! Data don't lie. You are right "GC" that you have more maneuverability in a smaller vehicle, but that is offset by the reduced crash protection of a smaller vehicle. And by the way, SUVOA does not advocate that everyone own an SUV, pickup or van or any large vehicle. Our mission is just to get the truth out - -the data that media too often ignore because they love to criticize SUVs or any vehicle that is politically incorrect.
--
Ron DeFore
Communications Director
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Ron, data rarely [if ever] tells the whole story, and often does "lie" to suit the agenda of those putting out 'their' statistics, and advocating their form of "political correctness". If all that matters is; which size fares best in crashes--you win... So, let's all keep buying larger and larger vehicles, but it'd be nice if people would stop pissin 'n' moaning about gas prices, vehicle prices, parts and maintenance costs, etc, etc.
GC
snipped-for-privacy@his.com (Bob Car Guy) Bingo Dave! Data don't lie. You are right "GC" that you have more maneuverability in a smaller vehicle, but that is offset by the reduced crash protection of a smaller vehicle. And by the way, SUVOA does not advocate that everyone own an SUV, pickup or van or any large vehicle. Our mission is just to get the truth out - -the data that media too often ignore because they love to criticize SUVs or any vehicle that is politically incorrect.
--
Ron DeFore
Communications Director
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I'll add this... Aside from the fact that it's a tank, my Blazer gives me better visibility than any other vehicle I've owned. Since I've been driving it I've been "surprised" less often by people in front of me slamming on their brakes, because I can already see why they're braking--and I'm already doing the same.
I'm also much less likely to change lanes and run into a motorcycle in the Blazer than I ever was in my Camry or Mazda 323 because I can see so much better.
My girlfriend was driving a small, efficient, and "manuverable" Pontiac Vibe (Toyota Matrix) up until a couple of weeks ago. The blind spots in that vehicle just made it dangerous in my opinion. I was always very nervous driving it in town. Luckily she just bought her first American vehicle--a Chevy Tahoe--a couple of weeks ago, and now after some adjustment is loving it. She also commented on how much better her visibility is, and I believe her driving has improved because of it. I no longer reach for the "Oh Shit! Handles" when she's behind the wheel.
~jp
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Per Jon R. Pickens:

I bought my 'burb because I'm very large - too large to drive much else without my head leaving a grease spot in the headliner and my knees pressing against the dashboard.
Large enough that if I had a minor accident driving my wife's Lumina, I'd be almost certain to suffer a spinal cord injury as my body was thrown upwards six inches or so and forwards as the soft tissue compressed against the seat belts.
My experience with the 'burb since 1998: ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ - My personal envelope and the 'burb's envelope are pretty well aligned. I drive it accordingly. I'd probably kill myself in a Porsche.
- In my previous vehicles, I was in a certain amount of pain after the first 30 minutes of driving - and therefore in considerable hurry to get where I was going and not in such a good mood while doing it. My take is that people in Southeastern Pennsylvania are significantly safer with me in the 'burb than they were with me in something else.
- The visibility thing is not to be underrated. During the day, I can see further - especially with all those fushlurggener SUV's that were blocking my vision in a regular car. At night, I am no longer periodically blinded by those ultra-bright headlights that some people have - and the higher-off-the-ground headlights of those damn SUVs.....
- Yes, it's more prone to rollover - but then again there's the envelope thing.
- Yes, if I hit an immovable object in this thing it will be more like hitting my head against a concrete wall wearing a steel bowl than a styrofoam helmet.
- OTOH, if somebody hits me and it's one of those damn SUVs....
- In spite of the two "Yes" items above, when I checked an insurance industry web site that listed something like deaths per 100,000 miles driven; the 'burb's numbers were among the lowest - along with the Chrysler's old (beeeeeg) Town & Country and a couple of others. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I think there's a definite "arms race" aspect to the popularity of SUVs - especially in regards to headlight height/brightness.
There is also a simple ergonomics factor as people discover it's more comfortable to drive something that wasn't designed to make a wind tunnel happy first and drivers second.
I think the perceived safety issue is there - but definitely not as big as it's presented by some.
--
PeteCresswell

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The rollover thing has always amused me. Even if I'm speeding (often) I don't come close to the rollover point. The closest I came was once in my Dodge Van, and I went around a curve WAY too fast. Not fast enough to roll, but when I came around, another car was partially in my lane so I swerved harder than normal and felt the two passenger side wheels briefly lose contact with the pavement.
I was driving a Suburban up until recently while I was awaiting an axle transplant for my Blazer. The Sub seemed harder to roll over than the Blazer, to me at least...
I'm also a tall dude. I'm 6'3" and my first car was a Caprice Classic. That was about the only "car" I've ridden in that didn't make me sore after a certain period of driving. Driving my Dodge Van was like sitting in my grandmother's padded rocking chair. And even the stock, non-adjustable seats in the Blazer and bench in the Suburban were WAY better than my Camry or 323 any day of the week.
Much agreement from me on the headlight issue. Especially given the popularity of those damn blue bulbs people are using nowadays.
My girlfriend just got a new Tahoe, so it's like the younger brother to my Blazer. They're pretty tough. And I'd be willing to be that if I were in a head-on collision in the Blazer against say, an Isuzu Rodeo, there'd be more left of mine than the other guy's.
~jp
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No Dave, I didn't "miss the point"... and am quite aware of the difference between large and small vehicles when crashed, especially if crashed into by some GD "mini-bus" or the like. Don't think I don't enjoy my Silverado, but most of my driving is done in a 4 or 6 cylinder... afterall, there are considerations other than my personal desires.
GC
From: snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com (Hairy)
"Not surprising from 'SUV owners of America'... but they miss a couple important facts; safety has alot to do with driving skills, speed, road conditions, and respect for other drivers. Smaller autos are more maneuverable, making it easier to avoid others less concerned about the millions on the road that careless drivers seem to ignore. I have both a long-bed Silverado, and a small Nissan pickup... I feel safer in the Nissan because I'm more able to avoid the idiots one encounters on an almost daily basis."
The point you are missing is that regardless of driving skills, if you are involved in an accident, you are safer in a larger vehicle. Anyone that thinks that their driving skills precludes them from being in an accident is a fool. Dave
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I thought we were talking about safety, not desires. Are you this cavalier about the safety of your loved ones?
Dave
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Your comments don't really make sense, but to try 'n' answer you; my family is alive 'n' doing fine. I've AVOIDED many collisions over the years by driving smaller vehicles that maneuver better--therefore making the issue in those cases; clear as to which 'size' is safer. I [much more] prefer to avoid crashes than worry about how all will fare in such occurrences. If you wish to call that "cavalier", then you might consider re-thinking you assertions.
GC
"I thought we were talking about safety, not desires. Are you this cavalier about the safety of your loved ones?" Dave
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