CONTACTTRAFFICABOUT TOM VANDERBILTOTHER WRITING CONTACT ABOUT THE BOOK

ESPN on MPG

“And although being in a heavy SUV might make the driver feel safer, the reality is the opposite. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety continues to find that you are more likely to die in an SUV than in a regular car. In its most recent study, “very large” SUVs had a higher occupant death rate than midsized cars — that is, trading in your large SUV for a regular-size car makes you less likely to die. The IIHS also finds that econobox-sized cars are death traps in crashes, so don’t switch to a tiny car to save fuel, switch to a midsized vehicle with a middling-horsepower engine. Here are the most recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration figures on fatality rates by vehicle class. They show that people in “light trucks,” the class that enfolds SUVs and most pickup trucks, are roughly one-third more likely to die per mile traveled than people in regular-size cars. It was quite cynical for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers to tell consumers that SUVs will make them feel safe when statistics show that buying an SUV makes the driver more likely to die.”

That’s from Gregg Easterbrook, via ESPN of all places. We do have to consider who’s driving those vehicles, of course; younger drivers tend to drive “econo-boxes,” so that tilts the fatality numbers upwards, etc. But the entire post, which is on fuel economy. is worth reading.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008 at 8:50 am and is filed under Etc.. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 Responses to “ESPN on MPG”

  1. Dale Says:

    Does the report say anything about rollover crashes? In Minnesota there is a high number of wrecks involving SUV and light trucks due to the weather and a false sense of security from having 4-wheel drive. As we all know the faster to go the faster you die.

  2. Jens Schade Says:

    I would say the risk to die in a SUV is much lower compared to smaller cars if all other conditions would be equal.

    But ..

    1.) different people tend to buy different cars. I argue that people with a higher acceptance of risk buy more sportive vehicles, and

    2.) people tend to behave more riskier in safe (and sportive) cars.

    All in all, the above results seem to be a perfect confirmation of the “behavioural adaptation hypothesis” which states that people often compensate safety gains by more riskier behaviour (if it is possible). In the above case it seems that the net effect is even negative (i.e. the costs of the riskier behaviour are larger than the safety gains of a big car). If you would behave the same in a SUV as in a mid-size car it should be clearly more safe to drive in a SUV.

    In that respect I find the above conclusion misleading.

  3. Tom_L Says:

    This is incredibly sloppy thinking to suggest that one variable, vehicle size (or “class”) correlates to injury or death rates. Show the data.

    There are many other factors that should be included in this study – and it more likely that these other factors will correlate much better to injury/death rates: seat belt usage, SRS equipment, ABS, dynamic stability control, driver’s BAC level, gender, driver’s years of experience, actual vs. posted speed limit, cellphone, weather condition, etc. etc. etc.

    The problem with simple analysis is that the conclusions are, well, simply naive.

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Traffic Tom Vanderbilt

How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.

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