SUVs no safer for kids than passenger cars

Children in sport utility vehicles (SUVs) are just as likely as children in passenger cars to be injured in an accident, despite the SUVs’ greater weight, a study finds.

Scientists analyzed accidents in 16 states and the District of Columbia that involved 3,922 children in SUVs or passenger cars. The vehicles were model-year 1998 or newer. All crashes had been reported to State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. between 2000 and 2003.

Researchers also interviewed the drivers of vehicles in which a child suffered an injury requiring treatment, such as a concussion, laceration, broken limb, or internal-organ injury. For both passenger cars and SUVs, children sustained such injuries in less than 2 percent of the crashes.

Heavy vehicles generally fared better in accidents than lighter vehicles did. However, SUVs rolled over more than twice as often as passenger cars did, and roll-over crashes were three times as likely to cause child injuries as were other crashes, the researchers report in the January Pediatrics.

SUVs’ protection afforded by weight “is undermined by a roll-over tendency,” says coauthor Dennis R. Durbin, a physician and epidemiologist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia.

Children in cars or SUVs not wearing seat belts were four times as likely to be injured in a crash as belted kids were. Unrestrained children in SUVs that rolled over were 25 times as likely to be injured as were belted-in children, the researchers report.

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