Are Bigger Cars Safer?
Are bigger cars really safer? Many people assume that driving an SUV, minivan, or pickup truck increases your chances of surviving a crash. While that may or may not be the case, larger vehicles present other problems regarding accident avoidance and rollover that are not encountered with smaller vehicles.
Let's start with crash survivability. Yes, having a larger vehicle is to your advantage if you collide with a smaller vehicle. Having the larger vehicle, however, may not determine whether you survive a crash. One of the most important areas of survivability is the vehicle design. If the vehicle is well designed with crumple zones to absorb and dissipate the energy of a collision, and has a strong well-designed passenger compartment designed to withstand the impact, you are in good shape regardless of the size of the vehicle. Finally, bigger vehicles develop a lot more momentum and energy than smaller vehicles. If your big vehicle hits something stationary, such as a tree or a stone wall, that extra energy is going to be detrimental unless it can be dissipated by a vehicle's crumple zones.
A disadvantage of larger vehicles such as SUVs and pick up trucks is the rollover problem. Accompanying the shift from larger sedan type autos to trucks is a higher center of gravity. These vehicles are taller and therefore more likely to roll over than cars with a lower center of gravity. Regardless of the size of your vehicle, you want to avoid rollovers, which are much more likely to cause head injuries.
Larger vehicles also cause additional problems in the area of collision avoidance. Most SUVs are not equipped with braking systems that allow them to stop as quickly as smaller cars (BMW and Mercedes Benz being the exceptions). Longer braking time means more accidents. The handling and maneuverability of bigger vehicles make them also less responsive than their smaller counterparts, so it may be easier for a small vehicle to avoid an accident. The increased height of SUVs and trucks does provide an advantage in being able to see over smaller vehicles, however. Earlier warning of a hazard down the road can help avoid an accident. Unfortunately, this advantage turns into a hindrance for smaller car drivers who can only see as far as the SUV in front of them.
Are bigger vehicles really safer? Not in all circumstances. Keep this in mind the next time you're shopping for new wheels.