Does Car Size Impact Crash Survivability?

Published on Mar 25, 2022 at 1:11 pm in Car Accidents.

cars in traffic

Years ago, it was commonplace for individuals to purchase sports utility vehicles or large pickup trucks with large passenger cab compartments to get around. It didn’t seem to matter if just one person was going to be driving around the vehicle all the time or if they were planning to use it to transport the entire family. All that seemed important to most consumers was to purchase the biggest vehicle they could find. What motivated consumers to take this approach to buying a car?

Many consumers opted to buy the biggest car they could find, in part, to ensure that they would have a large enough vehicle to carry their family around. Other consumers did so because they thought it would enhance their safety if a collision occurred.

We’ll delve a bit deeper into crash data to determine if it substantiates many motorists’ assumptions that a larger vehicle enhances survivability when accidents occur.

Safety Among Differently Sized Vehicles

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) data suggests that motorists’ concerns about smaller vehicles being less safe than larger ones may be founded. More specifically, the IIHS determined that SUV and truck drivers survive crashes at a higher rate than sedan drivers.

The IIHS researchers determined that the increased potential for survivability that SUVs and pickup trucks offer motorists is most notable when two differently sized vehicles collide into each other. IIHS data analysis shows that the larger vehicle’s occupants are much more likely to survive the accident without suffering any injuries than those in the smaller passenger car. Why is this the outcome?

If you’re wondering why the smaller vehicle’s occupants are more likely to suffer injuries when involved in an accident with a larger automobile, it has to do with a few factors such as:

  • Speed
  • Crashworthiness and the distribution of the impact
  • Weight
  • Car design
  • Vehicle age
  • Automobile price

We’ll address each of these factors when tackling how car size impacts crash survivability below.

How Speed Affects Accident Survivability

If you’ve ever seen the aftermath of a simulated collision test where they strap mannequins into the vehicle and propel the vehicle in the direction of an inanimate object, then you likely have some idea that speed can injure or kill. One detail that you might not know is which speeds have proven to be the most deadly.

Another IIHS study led to the publication of a report. Its researchers concluded that crash impacts that occur at between 50-56 mph are much more likely to result in injuries or death than ones that happen at 40 mph or lower. What role does car size play in all of this, though?

The Link Between Crashworthiness and Crash Impact

Auto manufacturers ideally make crashworthiness a priority when designing and manufacturing their vehicles. This concept refers to an automobile’s ability to effectively absorb any impact across the greatest amount of time and surface area. IIHS and others’ studies have shown that the larger the vehicle, the better it is at distributing the crash’s impact.

The more crashworthy vehicles are, the less apt the following incidents are to occur:

  • Seat belt failure
  • Driver or passenger ejections
  • Airbag deployment
  • Blunt force trauma from the dashboard, steering wheel, or windshield

The more crashworthy a vehicle is, the less likely the crash’s impact is to cause damage to the automobile’s passenger compartment, which minimizes the chances of a motorist suffering debilitating crumple zone injuries.

Ways A Vehicle’s Weight Impacts Crash Survivability

Researchers determined that a larger automobile and its occupants are more apt to fare better in a crash than a smaller car and its passengers.

Heavier vehicles are less likely to be susceptible to the force of a crash. However, the more weighted a larger, weighted automobile is, the more likely it is that the smaller, lighter one will suffer serious damages in the crash, thus resulting in its occupants suffering significant injuries.

Understanding How an Automobile’s Design Affects Collision Impact

An IIHS study also revealed that a vehicle’s design impacts crash survivability. More specifically, IIHS found that automobiles with a longer front-end, or distance between the front portion of the car and the passenger compartment, are more likely to protect occupants from suffering potentially life-threatening injuries. The same logic likely applies to rear-end crashes as well.

How Car Prices Impact Collision Injury Risks

IIHS researchers discovered that the more costly a vehicle is, the more likely that it will protect its occupants. Their justification for making this conclusion is that the more expensive a vehicle is, the more likely it is to have onboard safety features like crash avoidance technology to protect passengers. The researchers also discovered that a vehicle’s size doesn’t play a significant role when vehicles are equipped with this technology.

Why Vehicle Age Impacts Accident Survivability

The older a car is, the less apt it is to have certain built-in features like airbags, crossbody seat belts, reinforced passenger compartments, and other options which have greatly enhanced motorist safety in recent years.

Crashes That May Involve Unequally Matched Vehicles

Many of the crashes hinted at above when discussing how car size impacts crash survivability involve the potential of two passenger cars colliding.

Pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists have many reasons to fear sharing the road with automobiles of any shape or size.

Sedan, pickup truck, and SUV drivers must also worry about becoming entangled in a crash with 18-wheelers, buses, and other large motor vehicles. In the case of tractor-trailers, it’s not uncommon for the following factors to result in them colliding with passenger cars, causing significant injuries:

  • Unsecured loads
  • Speeding
  • Improper braking
  • Failures to account for changes in road or weather conditions

Jackknife, underride, and rollover accidents often result in these instances.

Where to Turn When a Crash Has Left You with Debilitating Injuries

Your life could have been moving ahead in one direction before your accident. A crash caused by a negligent motorist could have left you with life-altering injuries the next.

It’s not uncommon to hear advertisements on the radio or commercials on television in which Baltimore car accident attorneys talk about recovering compensation after a crash. Most of them are just talking about recovering your medical bills, though.

Personal injury attorneys can make demands for other damages, such as ones associated with your loss of quality of life, loss of consortium, or pain and suffering in your case as well.

Schedule a free consultation with one of our Belsky & Horowitz, LLC attorneys so that they can review your case and advise you of what losses you might be able to claim in your Maryland legal matter.



Fill out the form below about your potential case and a personal injury lawyer will get back to you as quickly as possible.