Sport utility vehicles, or SUVs, have a somewhat misleading reputation for safety. Even the smallest SUVs weigh in at over 3,000 pounds, making them significantly heavier than most sedans and coupes. That size advantage allows SUVs to withstand collisions with other vehicles without collapsing on the driver and passenger or violently shifting directions. As a result, the fatality rate for SUV drivers and passengers is about half that for drivers and passengers in small and mid-sized cars.
But the full safety story with SUVs is more complicated. First, SUVs provide more protection in most accident circumstances, but they can be vulnerable to rollovers. This doesn’t change the overall safety equation, but does mean that SUVs can be surprisingly dangerous even at relatively low speeds. Second, even though SUVs tend to keep their own occupants safe, they increase the risk posed to pedestrians and other vehicles. Consumer Reports has noted that crash tests pitting SUVs against typical cars result in the car driver’s death an alarming 7.6 times more often. Moreover, the large frame and elevated vantage point afforded by many SUVs can give drivers a false sense of security. SUV drivers attempt more aggressive maneuvers, are more likely to speed, and take larger risks on the road, according to Cars Guide.
These vehicles earn their safety ratings by performing well in crash tests, but that doesn’t mean they are less likely to be involved in a crash in the first place. In fact, the large size of many SUVs makes them difficult to maneuver in heavy traffic or crowded parking lots. SUV drivers may be at greater risk of minor accidents like fender benders as a result.
Many drivers like SUVs for their power, convenience, and safety. Lots of parents feel more comfortable letting their teens on the road in a larger vehicle, too. But the enhanced safety offered by SUVs can actually make collisions more likely by encouraging more aggressive driving. And when SUVs are involved in collisions, the pedestrians or vehicles on the other side tend to suffer more serious injuries and damage.