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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Will NHTSA, MSM Report New SUV Safety Data?

There is a lot of coverage this week of the latest data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on traffic safety, particulary the increase in total fatalaties in highway accidents and experts citing the tremendous increase in the number of motorcyclists in recent years as the main cause.

As a long-time motorcyclist myself (06 Kawasaki Concours), I am encouraged to see new media attention being focused on the problem of motorcycle deaths and injuries, which are largely attributable to people in cars not seeing motorcyclists and thus turning left in front of them, pulling in front of them from side roads and changing lanes into them.

But there is another angle on the new data - the marked improvement in sport-utility vehicle safety. Ron Defore, communications director for SUV Owners of America, points out for whatever reason these notable developments from the data are not highlighted by NHTSA in the agency's official report:

  • Among all passenger vehicles, SUVs had the largest increase in registrations - up 11% (page 56 of the report)
  • The number of SUV rollover fatalities dropped 1.8 percent from 2,929 to 2,877.
  • SUVs had the largest decline in occupant fatality rate in rollover crashes - down 11% (page 91)
  • The overall occupant fatality rate for SUVs showed the greatest decline of all vehicle types - down 8.7% (page 61)
  • Occupants killed and injured in two vehicle crashes involving a passenger car and an LTV (pickup, van, SUV): passenger car deaths down 4.9%; LTV deaths down 3.0% (page 95)
You can view the NHTSA document here. Surely the folks at NHTSA didn't purposely ignore the improvement in SUV safety!