WASHINGTON - Most people chose a car based on its safety rating. But when it comes to crashes with bigger vehicles, size is what matters most.
Regardless of how highly rated a vehicle is for safety, car drivers are more likely to die in head-on collisions with sports utility vehicles, according to a University of Buffalo study that looked at more than 83,000 crashes between 1995 and 2010.
Some other results: Drivers of passenger cars are more than four times more likely to die than SUV drivers if the car has a higher safety rating than the SUV. If the SUV safety rating beats that of the car, then the car's driver is nearly 10 times more likely to die.
When looking at head-on crashes without considering vehicle safety ratings, car drivers are more than seven times more likely to die than SUV drivers.
The researchers say smaller, lighter vehicles in crashes sustain an overwhelming majority of deaths. But even in vehicles with similar weights, SUVs have the safety advantage because their bumpers are higher. In frontal crashes, SUVs tend to drive over shorter vehicles and crush the passenger compartments.
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