Are SUVs Safer on Slick Roads?

Many motorists assume driving a four-wheel or all-wheel SUV provides ultimate safety for passengers on slick winter roads. The truth is, that’s not always the case. According to Russ Rader, spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, “…people who have all-wheel drive become overconfident. People drive faster than they otherwise would. Yet all-wheel drive vehicles don’t help them stop quicker. “It’s not a safety system,” Rader says. “It’s a system to keep you from getting stuck.”


David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports’ Auto Test division, agrees. “The problem with four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive is that because you have the traction to get going, you don’t have the sense of how slippery it is underneath.”

While larger vehicles are generally safer than smaller ones, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), sport utility vehicles have the highest rollover rate of any vehicle type in fatal crashes — 37%;  compared with 25% for pick-ups, 19% for vans and 15% for passenger cars. SUVs also have had the highest rollover rate in injury crashes

In the past, SUVs were also three times more likely to be involved in fatal accidents. These are awful statistics, but here’s the good news — because of advances in technology, high-riding SUVs are now much less likely to be involved in the deadly crashes than ordinary cars.

In fact, according to CNNMoney, someone driving a 2009 model year car is almost twice as likely to die in a rollover accident as someone driving a 2009 model year SUV!

That’s one of the surprising statistics from a new Insurance Institute for Highway Safety report comparing real-world auto accident death rates for various types of vehicles.

The biggest factor in the declining rollover rate, and an overall declining death rate for SUV drivers is electronic stability control, the Institute said. ESC is a computer-based system that helps drivers maintain control during abrupt maneuvers and on slippery roads. Now available on all SUVs sold in the U.S., it has greatly reduced the tendency of SUVs to skid and flip over.

If you’re looking for the peace of mind in knowing that you’ll be able to get home if an unexpected snowstorm hits, an SUV may be a good choice for you. However, if you think that AWD will help your car better grip slippery corners you will be sadly mistaken.

If you prefer driving an SUV make sure it has the following extras: electronic stability control (ESC), good ground clearance and a low center of gravity.

If you become involved in an accident with your SUV, McDivitt Auto Accident Lawyers are always available to answer your questions and help you deal with the complicated issues involved. Call us day or night toll free at 877-846-4878 or click here for a free initial consultation form.


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