The perception among car buyers is that SUVs are safer, but for many years it has not been the case. In fact, overall, SUVs may have resulted in a net increase in car accident deaths. According to data in the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), at the height of the SUV craze in 2004-2006, SUVs and other light trucks were about 30% more likely to be involved in fatal accidents than passenger cars. In multivehicle accidents, the driver of the SUV was more likely to survive while the passenger car drivers were at risk for fatal injury. However, SUVs were more likely to kill their occupants in single-vehicle crashes, with nearly half of the fatalities due to SUV rollovers.

This led some to believe that SUVs were defective vehicles by design and that their presence on the road in large numbers resulted in thousands of wrongful deaths. Wrongful death lawsuits over SUV rollovers and vehicle incompatibility resulted in millions of dollars in settlements and verdicts. Now, though, at least one of those factors seems to have been corrected.

According to a recent report by the IIHS, a voluntary agreement among automakers has resulted in better crash compatibility between SUVs, pickup trucks, and passenger cars. The result has been a dramatic improvement in so-called crash partner deaths. In 2000-2001, pickup trucks resulted in about 130 crash partner deaths per million registered vehicles, while SUVs resulted in about 70 crash partner deaths per million registered vehicles for the largest vehicles in the class. By 2008-2009, those numbered had decreased significantly to less than 60 for pickup trucks and less than 40 for SUVs. Although SUVs and light trucks are still 31% more likely to be involved in fatal crashes than passenger cars, the people they kill are less likely to be other drivers, and more likely to be victims of single-car SUV rollover accidents, which still account for nearly half of all deaths among SUV and light truck drivers.

If you have lost a loved one in a fatal car accident that you believe may be due to negligent safety design in either vehicle, you may be able to receive compensation.

Please contact the wrongful death attorneys at Robert W. Kerpsack, CO, LPA today for a free case evaluation.