More on the dangers of SUVs

People need to know this, even news people, so I’m going to harp on it. Somebody writes in to Sheila Lennon explaining why he prefers a truck to a car:

    Did the people who make these reports ever think that some of us buy large trucks and vans because they are safer? The big box frame that the body is bolted to, is why I buy a truck. It keeps my family safe. In today’s market, the cars and trucks with frames are the safe ones. Not the unibody construction of cars that crumble on impact and you die anyway.

Emphasis mine. This is the fundamental fallacy of truck/SUV ownership, that the big heavy frame makes the car safer to the truck/SUV’s owner. It actually makes it more dangerous, as Malcolm Gladwell’s article, linked yesterday, illustrates.

Here’s why: The unit-body car frame is designed to collapse and absorb the impact of a collision so that when the passengers are hurled against the car’s interior they’ll hit it with less force — and less injury.
A truck or SUV mounted on parallel beams of rigid steel cannot collapse and absorb impact this way, so when the truck/SUV owner crashes, he hits the interior of his car with a lot more force. The other good thing about unit-body: when two cars built this way collide, the impact-absorption goes both ways, making it less likely that both cars’ occupants will be seriously injured. But when SUVs and trucks hit stuff, it’s more likely they’ll do worse damage to themselves and the other vehicle.

If you want safety for your family, buy a minivan. From Gladwell’s article:

    In a thirty-five-m.p.h. crash test … the driver of a Cadillac Escalade … has a sixteen-per-cent chance of a life-threatening head injury, a twenty-per-cent chance of a life-threatening chest injury, and a thirty-five-per-cent chance of a leg injury. The same numbers in a Ford Windstar minivan … are, respectively, two per cent, four per cent, and one per cent.

Furthermore, trucks and SUVs are less agile at highway speed so people driving them have a tougher time avoiding collisions. Observation from my own experience: I can think of three times I’ve seen SUVs upside down on the highway in the past couple years. I can’t remember seeing any other kind of vehicle that way.

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