Newer sport utility vehicles are significantly less deadly than those of decades past, according to a new analysis of federal data. From 2008 to 2009, the fatality rate for passengers in 3,000- to 3,499-pound cars or minivans hit by similarly-sized SUVs was 16 per million registered vehicles. That’s down nearly 64% from the 44 deaths per million rate during the 2000-2001 period, and death rates for car occupants during the most recent period were basically the same whether their vehicle was hit by a car or an SUV.
“It used to be, pound for pound, pickups and SUVs were more deadly than cars,” says an officer of the institute that completed the study; in fact, that was one of the most troubling highway safety problems that the auto industry has had to deal with over the past two decades. US automakers seem to have now solved that problem, the Wall Street Journal notes, by redesigning SUVs and equipping cars with better safety technology. Says a study co-author, “You can pick up a car today that is light years safer than 20 years ago.” (Read more sport utility vehicle stories.)