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Fewer people being killed in car-truck collisions, study finds

Wed, 28 Sep 2011

Death rates in crashes between big trucks and cars dropped 64 percent in 2008-09 compared with 2000-01, according to an insurance-industry study of government data.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety cited changes in vehicle design, particularly for SUVs and pickups, as a key factor in the decline.

The number of deaths for car and minivan passengers involved in crashes with larger vehicles fell from 44 per million in 2000-01 to 16 deaths per million in 2008-09, the study found.

The institute conducted the analysis based on crash data for one- to four-year-old vehicles.

In 2003, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration urged automakers to improve SUVs and pickups so that collisions would be more survivable for those in smaller cars.

As part of the effort to satisfy this request, new NHTSA standards require electronic stability control and stronger vehicle structures to prevent skids and rollovers.

The institute found that more safety features in smaller vehicles might also play a part in the improved survival rate. However, the group mainly credits design changes for pickups and SUVs, such as matching the heights of bumpers with those of smaller cars.

In previous decades, rigid frame rails on pickups and SUVs were high enough off the ground that they collided with the thinner sheetmetal on car doors in a crash.

Though the risk of death has decreased significantly in such an accident, the study did find that car occupants are still more likely to die in a collision with a pickup than with a car. So, there's more work to be done.

By Michelle Koueiter