SUVs - safe or not?
Pediatric occupational therapists often have good opportunities to talk to parents about injury prevention. Parents are often looking for advice on proper child restraints and other child passenger safety issues. Parent education regarding safety and wellness issues should be critical components of all occupational therapy interventions.
It is very difficult to cut through the hype when it comes to reporting on SUV safety - and the reporting on the newest study in Pediatrics this month is no exception. Read the full article at http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/117/1/9
On average, SUVs in the study weighed 1,300 pounds more than the cars studied. The extra weight of SUVs enhanced safety, reducing the risk of injury by more than a third. That safety is offset by findings that SUVs were more than twice as likely as cars to roll over in crashes.
So what should parents do? Study the rollover risks of SUVs. Go to the website http://www.safercar.gov/ and study the issue of rollover yourself. Then when you choose a vehicle, consider the ratings, consider whether the vehicle was dynamically tested, and consider the additional safety options like Electronic Stability Control and curtain airbags. Learn about the dangers of overcorrection when driving an SUV and check your tires frequently. Even more, understand the risks of driving SUVs in rural areas.
Cars and vans can rollover also. The rate is about half that of SUVs.. again, it is important to educate yourself about this. Don't think that driving the family minivan is better than an SUV - sometimes, the minivans are actually worse.
SUVs offer superior safety in frontal crashes. The issue is this: can you avoid a rollover? That's tough to know - instincts can kick in and all the knowledge of maneuverability can go out the window if you are trying to avoid hitting a child who has run into the road.
No matter what you do, keep your children restrained properly in SUVs. And keep them away from deploying air bags in the front seat if they are less than 13 years old.
Daly, L., Kallan, M.J., Arbogast, K.B., & Durbin, D.R. (2006). Risk of injury to child passengers in sport utility vehicles. Pediatrics, 117, 9-14.