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Study: Bigger, more expensive is better when it comes to vehicle safety

Most people are very selective when it comes to their vehicles, so much so that when the time comes for a new one, they automatically limit their search by vehicle brand, model type or perhaps even price.  

Interestingly enough, a recently released study by researchers at the University of Buffalo suggests that those who fall into this category may want to seriously reconsider their buying practices, perhaps entertaining heavier or more expensive vehicle options.

As part of the study, the researchers examined the rate of medical claims filed in connection with car accidents involving one of 360 different car, truck and sport utility vehicle models manufactured from 2010-2012.

After adjusting for various factors, they reached the following stunning conclusions:

  • The overall safety of a vehicle increased by 19 percent for every 1,000-pound increase in its curb weight,
  • The rate of personal injuries sustained in accidents declined by 12 percent for every additional $10,000 spent on a vehicle.

According to the researchers, there are a multitude of reasons why heavier cars like trucks and SUVs are safer than their lighter counterparts like sedans and microcars.

First and foremost is that when these smaller models collide with larger models, there is frequently a change in velocity that can cause the smaller model to propel backwards. This, in turn, can cause serious whiplash-like injuries to the occupants of the smaller vehicle.

Similarly, the researchers found that heavier vehicles not only have larger crush zones by virtue of their size, but are also prone to a phenomenon known as override. This means that the weight coupled with a high center of gravity causes these heavier vehicles to strike smaller vehicles at higher -- and more vulnerable -- points like roof columns.

While it may be obvious why heavier vehicles are safer in car crashes, the same cannot necessarily be said as to why expensive vehicles are also safer.

The researchers indicated that at least some of this can be attributed to the fact that SUVs, arguably the safest type of vehicle, tend to carry a relatively higher price tag. However, they also pointed out that more expensive vehicles are also more likely to be outfitted with the most up-to-date crash prevention and safety technology, including collision avoidance systems, expanded airbag protection and traffic cameras, to name only a few.

While none of this is particularly encouraging, the researchers did indicate that consumers can find solace in the fact that this advanced crash prevention and safety technology is now being incorporated into smaller and less expensive cars at a much faster rate than in decades past.   

If you or a loved one were injured by the actions of a negligent motorist, always consider speaking with an experienced legal professional who can explain the law, answer your questions and fight to secure the peace of mind you will need going forward. 

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