Report: Weight Imbalance Impacts Pickup Crashes

Oct. 11, 2019
While research indicates that SUVs may not be a major threat to occupants of smaller vehicles, pickups represent an outsized danger and weight imbalance may be the key factor.

Oct. 11, 2019—According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), SUVs are not a major threat to smaller vehicles. However, pickups still present an outsized danger due to weight imbalance.

In 2013-16, car occupants were only slightly more likely to die in collisions with 1-4-year-old SUVs than with cars of the same age, relative to the number of each vehicle type on the road.

IIHS researchers documented the trend in 2011 and attributed the change to stronger structures and side air bags in cars and minivans and to newer SUV designs that lowered the vehicles’ front ends to better align with cars’ energy-absorbing structures.

Pickup-car compatibility is still lacking. The car driver death rate in crashes with pickups increased steadily between 1989 and 2008 relative to the car driver death rate in crashes with other cars. This gap began to close over the last decade but remains large. 

“More sophisticated designs that do a better job of managing forces in a crash, along with electronic stability control and other crash avoidance features, have made the sheer weight of a vehicle less important,” Joe Nolan, IIHS senior vice president for vehicle research says in the article. “This suggests that reducing the weight of the heaviest vehicles for better fuel economy — for example, by switching from steel to aluminum — can improve safety.”

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