Many people in Oklahoma drive SUVs. Among the various reasons why they might buy an SUV is because they believe that it is safer than other vehicles. While that might be true, it raises another safety question: do SUVs equally protect every occupant in the vehicle?
SUV Front Passenger Seats Not as Safe
A series of tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) showed that for some SUVs, the front passenger seat is not as safe as the driver's seat. The IIHS tested seven small SUVs by crashing both the front driver's side and passenger's side corners of the vehicles into a barrier at 40 mph. The tests showed that most of the models offered less protection for the front passenger.
One of the engineers at the IIHS explained that the difference was likely due to the fact that earlier crash tests focused on the safety of the driver's side corner of the SUV. Thus, some manufacturers spent more resources to increase safety on that part of the vehicle.
In 2014 alone, more than 1,600 front-seat passengers died in accidents. Tests like that performed by the IIHS can expose safety weaknesses with certain vehicle models. People who ride in these models may be at greater risk of serious personal injury in the event of a crash.
Are SUVs Even That Much Safer Than Cars?
Years ago, the University of Buffalo conducted an SUV safety crash test study that still has relevancy today due to the fact that SUV design has remained relatively unchanged across the years. In that study, researchers noted that SUV drivers were much less likely to suffer a fatal injury in a head-on crash with a smaller vehicle. Simple physics mandates that larger, heavier vehicles will be damaged less in a crash than a smaller, lighter one, so, to some extent, “vehicle type is more important than the crash-test rating […],” said the researchers.
However, the study always warned that driving a bigger SUV is not a guaranteed way to stay safe on the road. The basic, lifted design of an SUV inherently makes it more top-heavy than the typical passenger vehicle. Accidents that might only dent the door of a sedan could cause an SUV to topple over and roll, which can be extremely dangerous even with great in-cabin safety features like side airbags. Single-vehicle rollover accidents are also more likely among SUV drivers due to this elementary SUV design, which could potentially be argued as a defect.
Lawsuits Against SUV Manufacturers
SUV accident victims should understand their options for seeking compensation. If the accident itself was caused by a defective auto, or if a design defect resulted in more severe injuries, they may want to consider a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer.
Martin Jean & Jackson offers legal guidance and representation to SUV accident victims throughout Oklahoma, including Ponca City, Tulsa, Stillwater, and Oklahoma City. Contact us if you have been seriously injured in a crash to see if you can sue for compensation.
- CNBC, "Crash tests raises questions about front-seat safety in some SUVs," Phil LeBeau, Accessed on Oct. 7, 2016
- Consumer Reports, “SUVs are safer than cars in front crashes, but there is more to the story,” May 2013