Unsafe at any speed.

Today’s New York Times reports on the ever-worsening safety records of SUVs:

The gap in safety between sport utility vehicles and passenger cars last year was the widest yet recorded, according to new federal traffic data.

People driving or riding in a sport utility vehicle in 2003 were nearly 11 percent more likely to die in an accident than people in cars, the figures show.


The traffic safety agency reported last week that there were 16.42 deaths of S.U.V. occupants in accidents last year for every 100,000 registered S.U.V.’s. The figure for passenger cars was 14.85 deaths for each 100,000 registered; pickups were slightly higher than cars at 15.17 deaths per 100,000, while vans were lowest at 11.2 occupant deaths for every 100,000 registered.


Complicating the safety question is what happens to people in the other vehicle in a collision. Because of the higher ground clearance of sport utilities and large pickup trucks, their bumpers often skip over the crash structures of passenger cars, raising the likelihood that an occupant of the car will be killed or seriously injured.

That last paragraph is particularly notable: SUVs kill the drivers of other cars at tremendous rates. The figures listed here — “16.42 deaths of S.U.V. occupants in accidents last year for every 100,000 registered S.U.V.’s” — refers only to the death rate of people in the SUVs, not people involved in accidents with SUVs. When those numbers are included, the death rate of SUVs involved in accidents goes way up.

There are two generalizations that can be made about people that drive SUVs: they prefer a false sense of safety over safety itself, and they’re willing to create that sense of safety by posing a serious danger to others. This is like covering one’s car with directional antipersonnel land mines to ward off carjackers — a minor, accidental collision is far more likely than an attack, would would both injure the dope driving and kill the hapless collider. Such behavior is both stupid and reckless.

You’ve got to be some kind of a sociopath to drive an SUV in the face of data like these.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »