Size matters on who survives in a head-on crash between a car and SUV.

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Size matters on who survives in a head-on crash between a car and SUV.

— In a head-on crash, are you safer riding in a passenger car or an SUV? What if the car has a better crash-test rating than the SUV?

Researchers at the University at Buffalo, NY, crunched the numbers and said even if the car has a higher safety rating, drivers in passenger cars are four times more likely to die in a crash with an SUV.

Additionally, drivers in passenger cars were nearly 10 times more likely to die in a head-on crash if the SUV involved had a better crash-test rating.

Why Size Trumps Safety Ratings

Researchers studied 83,521 vehicles involved in head-on crashes between 1995 and 2010.  The study shows no matter the safety ratings, the overwhelming majority of crash fatalities occur in the smaller and lighter of the two vehicles.

With vehicles of similar weights, the SUV still comes out on top, literally.  Researchers said most SUVs will crush a driver or passenger in a car because the SUV is taller.

“Passenger vehicles with excellent safety ratings may provide a false degree of confidence to the buyer regarding the relative safety of these vehicles as demonstrated by our findings,” said Dietrich Jehle, MD, UB professor of emergency medicine at Erie County Medical Center. “Consumers should take into consideration the increased safety of SUVs in head-on crashes with passenger vehicles when purchasing a car.”

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