Bigger Not Necessarily Better

“Bigger is Better” is a commonly heard mantra when shopping for a new car. Many drivers think that they are more likely to survive a crash in a Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) or Pickup Truck due to the increased size and weight of the vehicle. However, this thinking does not take into account the risk of driving a SUV to other road users. The risk compensation from this perception of safety makes SUVs and Trucks a dangerous class of vehicles for all road users. 

Which would you want to be in when you get t-boned?

While the risk to drivers of SUVs and Trucks is similar to vehicles of other classes, the risk to other road users is significantly higher. [1] “SUV-to-car collisions are six times more likely to kill the occupants of the smaller vehicle when compared to a normal car-to-car collision. You may be safer inside an SUV, but you're at greater risk of killing others in the event of an accident.” [2] SUVs and Trucks are incompatible with other road users because they have higher bumpers and higher weight. 

Additionally, SUVs and Trucks require a longer braking distance (an average of 30 feet longer) than mid-size vehicles making crashes harder to avoid. Accepting this longer braking distance also mirrors a switch from an active to a passive view of safety: “A crash is inevitable so I better protect myself with as large of a vehicle as possible.” This uniquely American attitude of “if someone is going to die, I don’t want it to be me” combined with the longer braking distance is a recipe for disaster for unavoidable crashes. The imposing size, and especially height of the driver, of a SUV or Truck creates a disconnect between the driver and other road users. [3]

In conclusion, SUVs and Trucks may be safer for the driver but make the rest of the road users much less safe. Consumers need to be aware of the full impact of their car purchases and consider the effect not only on themselves but all road users.