January 5, 2006

New research shows SUVs not safer than cars for children

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – New research shows that children riding in SUVs have similar injury risks to children who ride in passenger cars and are no safer. The research, published in the journal Pediatrics by researchers at The Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, found that an SUV’s increased risk of rolling over during a crash offsets the safety benefits associated with larger, heavier vehicles.

The report says that people who use an SUV as a family vehicle should know that they do not provide superior protection for child occupants, and that age- and size-appropriate restraints and rear seating for children under thirteen are critically important, because of the increased risk of a rollover crash.

The study, part of an ongoing research collaboration between the hospital and State Farm Insurance Companies, examined crashes reported to State Farm involving 3,933 child occupants up to fifteen years of age, who were in either SUVs or passenger cars model year 1998 or newer. Rollover contributes significantly to risk in both vehicle types, but occurred twice as frequently in SUVs. Children involved in rollover crashes were three times more likely to be injured than those in non-rollovers.

Children not properly restrained in a car seat, booster seat or seatbelt during an SUV rollover were at 25 per cent greater risk for injury, over appropriately-restrained children; 41 per cent of unrestrained children in these crashes suffered serious injury, versus three per cent of appropriately-restrained children in SUVs. Overall, injury risk for appropriately-restrained children in passenger cars is less than two per cent.

Previous Children’s Hospital research has shown that, within each vehicle classification, larger and heavier vehicles are generally safer: for example, among all passenger cars, large and luxury cars feature lower child injury risk than midsize or small cars. Among SUVs, midsize and small SUVs had similar injury risks, which were two times higher than large SUVs. Children in the rear row of compact extended-cab pickup trucks faced a five-fold increased risk of injury in a crash, as compared to rear-seated children in all other vehicle types.

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