Are SUVs safer than cars

They have become an integral part of the street scene: the large, heavy SUVs. The term is the abbreviation of the English name Sports Utility Vehicle and describes a kind of cross between a normal car and an off-road vehicle. Although hardly any SUV owner ever drives their vehicle off-road, they are so popular with buyers because of their other properties that almost all car manufacturers have had a veritable SUV boom across the model range for years. Because they are taller than a normal car, getting in and out is easier, which is particularly beneficial for older drivers. And because you are enthroned above what is happening on the road, so to speak, and have a better all-round view, this gives the occupants a subjectively higher feeling of safety.

For those involved in the accident, however, a collision with a heavy SUV harbors enormous risks. Last Saturday, a large BMW X5 crashed into an Opel Corsa in Munich, killing three of the four occupants of the car. "The accident fits our result," says Siegfried Brockmann, Head of Accident Research at Insurers (UDV). Brockmann conducted a study in 2011 to examine the risk of accidents caused by SUVs. Their results were clear and are still valid.

Completely different weight classes come together

The SUV drivers are not the problem in accidents, because the main risk group of young speedsters is only weakly represented here - no wonder, given the horrendous prices of the cars. The vehicles themselves are the deadly danger. Because in an accident between an SUV and a normal car, especially if it is a small car, completely different weight classes come together. A BMW X5 weighs more than two tons, an Opel Corsa weighs just under half. In addition, there is the different height of the vehicles, which is "not compatible", as Brockmann says. "An SUV hits higher." Anyone who is rammed from the side by an SUV can therefore suffer serious injuries even at low impact speeds. At higher speeds, the car occupants have little chance of survival.

According to UDV examinations, the risk for pedestrians who are hit by an SUV cannot be quantified quite as clearly. Both the size of the victim and the length of the SUV's bonnet play a role here; experts speak of "unwinding length". It depends on where the victim hits when it is thrown over the bonnet, the hardest and therefore most dangerous part are the window frames. "As long as you don't hit the window frame, you have a good chance of surviving," says Brockmann.

The SUV occupants, on the other hand, benefit from their heavy vehicle in the event of a crash. Because the greater mass results in less damage. Whether SUV drivers also have something like a built-in right of way, which is why the other person usually dodges in narrow spaces, is not scientifically proven, but is more likely to be related to the instinctively granted right of the stronger. "I would make room there too," says Brockmann.