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Children riding in SUVs have similar injury risks to those in passenger cars, research from The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia indicates.

Previous research by the hospital had suggested that larger, heavier vehicles are generally safer.

But the study, published in the journal Pediatrics, found that an SUV's increased risk of rollover during a crash offsets the inherent safety benefits associated with size and mass.

The study looked at crashes reported to State Farm Insurance Companies involving 3,933 child occupants up to 15 years old who were in 1998 or newer sport utilities or cars.

It found that rollovers occurred twice as frequently in SUVs, and children involved in rollover crashes were three times more likely to be injured than those in non-rollover crashes.

The report did not conclude that SUVs are more dangerous to youngsters on an overall basis, but neither did it suggest that they are safer.

"People who use an SUV as their family vehicle should know that SUVs do not provide superior protection for child occupants," said Dr. Dennis Durbin, who co-authored the study.

He added: "Age- and size-appropriate restraints and rear seating for children under 13 years are critically important because of the increased risk of a rollover crash."

Significant improvements have been made in SUVs to reduce their risk of rollover.


Buying a Safer Car for Child Passengers

SUVs No Safer than Passenger Cars for Children, New Study Finds

Partners for Child Passenger Safety evidence points to need for improved child occupant protection in rollover crashes

PHILADELPHIA, Jan. 3 /PRNewswire/ -- New research from The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, shows that children riding in SUVs have similar injury risks to children who ride in passenger cars. The study, published today in the journal Pediatrics, found that an SUV's increased risk of rolling over during a crash offset the safety benefits associated with larger, heavier-weight vehicles.

The study, part of an on-going research collaboration of Children's Hospital and State Farm Insurance Companies, looked at crashes reported to State Farm involving 3,933 child occupants between the ages of 0 and 15 years who were in either SUVs or passenger cars that were model year 1998 or newer. Rollover contributes significantly to risk of injury in both vehicle types and occurred twice as frequently in SUVs. Children involved in rollover crashes were three times more likely to be injured than children in non-rollovers.

Children who were not properly restrained in a car seat, booster seat or seatbelt during an SUV rollover were at a 25-fold greater risk for injury as compared to appropriately restrained children. Nearly half of the unrestrained children in these crashes (41 percent) suffered a serious injury versus only three percent of appropriately restrained children in SUV's. Overall, injury risk for appropriately restrained children in passenger cars is less than 2 percent.

"SUVs are becoming more popular as family vehicles because they can accommodate multiple child safety seats and their larger size may lead parents to believe SUVs are safer than passenger cars," said Dennis Durbin, MD, M.S.C.E., an emergency physician and clinical epidemiologist at The Children's Hospital, and co-author on the study. "However, people who use an SUV as their family vehicle should know that SUV's do not provide superior protection for child occupants and that age- and size-appropriate restraints and rear seating for children under 13 years are critically important because of the increased risk of a rollover crash."

In the 2005 Partners for Child Passenger Safety Fact and Trend Report, Children's Hospital reported that SUVs in child-involved State Farm crashes increased from 15 percent in 1999 to 26 percent in 2004, while the percentage of passenger cars decreased from a high of 54 percent in 1999 to 43 percent in 2004. There was no or little growth in the percentage of minivans in the study population -- 24 percent in 2004.

"We want parents to be able to make fully informed decisions regarding the choice of vehicle for their family," says Lauren Daly, MD, co-author of the study. "Ideally, a safe family car has enough rear-row seating positions with lap-and-shoulder belts for every child under 13 that requires them and enough remaining rear-row positions to install child safety seats for infants and toddlers."

Previous Children's Hospital research has shown that, within each vehicle classification, larger heavier vehicles are generally safer. For instance, of all passenger car classifications, large and luxury cars feature lower child injury risk than mid-size or small passenger cars. Among SUVs, mid-size and small SUVs had similar injury risks, which were two times higher than large SUVs. Compact extended-cab pickup trucks present a unique risk to children- child occupants in the rear row of compact extended cab pick-ups face a five- fold increased risk of injury in a crash as compared to rear-seated children in all other vehicle types.

Parents who are unsure of how to choose and install car safety seats or booster seats can visit http://www.chop.edu/carseat to find educational videos and information, or they can locate a certified child passenger safety technician in their community who will teach them how to install the seat properly.

About Partners for Child Passenger Safety

Partners for Child Passenger Safety (PCPS) is a research collaboration between The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and State Farm. As of February 2005, PCPS has created a database containing information on more than 377,000 crashes involving more than 557,000 children from birth through age 15 years. It is the world's largest study of children in motor vehicle crashes.

About The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia was founded in 1855 as the nation's first pediatric hospital. Through its long-standing commitment to providing exceptional patient care, training new generations of pediatric healthcare professionals and pioneering major research initiatives, Children's Hospital has fostered many discoveries that have benefited children worldwide. Its pediatric research program is among the largest in the country, ranking second in National Institutes of Health funding. In addition, its unique family-centered care and public service programs have brought the 430-bed hospital recognition as a leading advocate for children and adolescents. For more information, visit http://www.chop.edu/.

About State Farm(R)

State Farm(R) insures more cars than any other insurer in North America and is the leading U.S. home insurer. State Farm's 17,000 agents and 69,000 employees serve nearly 73 million auto, fire, life and health policies in the United States and Canada. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company is the parent of the State Farm family of companies. State Farm is ranked No.19 on the Fortune 500 list of largest companies. For more information, please visit statefarm.com(R) or in Canada statefarm.ca(TM).

Contact: Dana Mortensen

Company News On-Call: http://www.prnewswire.com/comp/159681.html
Website: http://www.chop.edu/carseat

The good news is: Bad news on SUV safety is wrong


Special to the Star-Telegram

As Americans resumed their routines after the holidays, headlines coast-to-coast warned, "SUVs No Safer for Kids Than Passenger Cars."
A big story like this influences tens of millions of people, and the impression sticks. It will be there the next time they purchase a vehicle, and especially when the news came from a study that was published in the prestigious journal Pediatrics.

In the popular vernacular, it's now a "done deal" that SUVs don't offer a safety advantage for families with children. But as they say: Wait, there's more.

The authors of the study out of Children's Hospital in Philadelphia have excellent reputations, and this is not to criticize their work. They admitted candidly that their study was based on a small sampling of crashes. How small? The sample represented less than 0.1 percent of all crash-injured children. That's the rub.

For those not so familiar with research methodology, think of polling results where a small group of the public is queried, which results in something like a plus or minus 3 percent margin of error. That is, the results could actually be 3 percentage points higher or lower than the stated results.

In the SUV study, one of the data points that received wide media coverage had a confidence level the equivalent of plus 275 percent and minus 73 percent margin of error.

The media failed to make this point to the public, drawing the conclusion that SUVs don't protect kids as people may think they do.

That conclusion is dead wrong.

Unfortunately, SUVs have become the whipping boys of the roadways, and the study in question, although not intended to create a firestorm, was enough during a slow news week to make headlines.

In July, the federal government's auto and highway safety agency (the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) issued a comprehensive study that looked at child passenger safety in all classes of vehicles. Its conclusion: SUVs provide more protection to kids in crashes than passenger cars -- the opposite of what we saw in the headlines earlier this month. The NHTSA study looked at all fatal crashes involving children, not just a sampling. There is no margin of error!

The government study found that for children using safety seats or safety belts, the risk of injury is 21 percent greater in cars than in SUVs. In terms of fatal injury, SUVs are 2.4 times safer for children age 0-3; 2.0 times safer for children age 4-7; and 2.2 times safer for children age 8-15.

So here's the bottom line for parents: When it comes to fatal crashes, SUVs are at least twice as safe for children as passenger cars. Also, studies show that wearing a safety belt greatly reduces the chances of injury or death to adults and children.

Vehicle crashes are the leading killer of children. The correction of a wrong public perception about the safety performance of the vehicles in which we transport our children should be communicated widely and with the utmost urgency.

Barry McCahill is president of SUV Owners of America, a nonprofit education organization. www.suvoa.org

SUVOA News Releases and Statements

The Truth Finally Gets Told: SUVs are Safest for Child Passengers

Federal Study Sets the Record Straight with Compelling Data on SUV Crashes

January 09, 2006 - Washington, D.C. - Children are at least twice as safe in SUVs than passenger cars when properly restrained according to an analysis of a July 2005 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) performed by SUV Owners of America, the organization announced today. NHTSA is the federal government agency responsible for automobile and highway safety.

SUVOA President Barry McCahill said, "Two times safer means a lot safer, and this is vital information that parents, grandparents and caregivers need to know. Unfortunately, last week it was widely reported that SUVs provide no more crash protection for children than cars ? and that's just not true."

"The NHTSA study documents still again that what you drive has much to do with crash outcome. All else being equal in safety equipment, occupants of a larger vehicle fare better in a crash, which is why an SUV is among the smartest safety choices. They may cost more to operate, but the added expense could be viewed as another form of life insurance," McCahill said.

The comprehensive NHTSA study, "Child Passenger Fatalities and Injuries Based on Restraint Use, Vehicle Type, Seat Position, and Number of Vehicles in the Crash," considered all fatal crashes, as well as injury crashes. In looking at crashes involving both restrained and unrestrained children researchers found that for children in safety seats or safety belts injuries were 21 percent greater for cars than SUVs, and SUVs provide 2 - 2.4 times better protection from fatal injury than cars.

SUVOA believes many parents received an incorrect impression of SUV safety recently. A much smaller scale study published over the holiday period in the journal Pediatrics resulted in national news stories saying children are as safe in passenger cars as SUVs.

But that study was based on a sample of less than one tenth of one percent of all crash-injured children; limited to only 16 states; and no distinction was made between the types of injury reported - small cuts and brain injuries were considered equal, and the injuries were self-reported by the driver of the vehicle involved.

"The NHTSA study is far more authoritative because it is national in scope and much more extensive. Moreover, it comes from the agency that is the premier source for auto crash data collection and analysis," McCahill added. "Parents should look to the NHTSA findings for the bottom line in which vehicles are safest for their children."

"SUVs are extremely popular for good reason. They provide remarkable utility for families, businesses and recreational enthusiasts. They constantly rank as safety standouts in real world crash performance. Now there is another reason for their popularity - they are the safest choice for child passengers," McCahill said. (See link to Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) below showing that for almost every year since 1992 SUV occupant death rates (passengers of all ages) have been lower than cars).

McCahill explained that vehicle safety is evolving constantly and automakers should continue to make SUVs and all vehicles even safer, for example by equipping them with electronic stability control (ESC) to help prevent rollover crashes. NHTSA found (in another study) ESC to be 67 percent effective in preventing a rollover from occurring. Because SUVs have a greater tendency to roll over than cars, this, and other design and engineering technologies will further widen the rollover safety gap between SUVs and cars.

"But most highway tragedies are not the vehicle's fault. Adults should make sure children ride in a safety seat or safety belt for older children, and buckle up themselves," McCahill said. "That may sound like staid advice, but it?s still your best chance of survival in a crash." NHTSA estimates that 2 out of 3 people killed in rollover crashes were not wearing safety belts and that about 75 percent of those people would be alive today had they buckled up.

In fatal crashes a child in an SUV who rides unrestrained has a fatality risk four times the risk of a restrained child. In other words, child safety seats and safety belts are about 75 percent effective in reducing fatality risk in SUV crashes. Other studies have shown restraint use to have similar effectiveness in all types of vehicles.

"Children should ride with those strong odds in their favor. It's the law in all states to protect child passengers, but regardless its just common sense," McCahill added.

Other key cites from the NHTSA study and SUVOA's analysis of it include:

Page 3, abstract-16, par. 3:

"In fatal crashes, restrained children in passenger cars were more likely to be fatally injured than restrained children in LTVs [light trucks and vans]."
Section 4.1.1 Restrained Passengers, Age 0 - 3

"In single-vehicle fatal crashes, 20 percent of restrained children in passenger cars were fatally injured. This percentage was smaller in sport utility vehicles (11%), vans (14%), and pickups (15%). These numbers present a clear pattern: the percentage of restrained child passengers who were fatally injured was higher in a passenger car than in an LTV...In multi-vehicle fatal crashes, the percentage of restrained children in LTVs who were fatally injured ranged from 6 percent in pickups up to 10 percent in vans, for children up through 3 years old. This was far less than the 20 percent seen among child occupants of passenger cars."
Similar differences between SUVs and cars in sections:

4.2.1 Restrained Passengers, Age 4 - 7
4.3.1 Restrained Passengers, Age 8 - 15
SUVOA analysis of the study's data:

In fatal crashes SUVs are 2.4 times safer than passenger cars for restrained children age 0-3; 2.0 times safer for children age 4-7; and 2.2 times safer for children age 8-15.
SUVOA analysis of the study?s data:

In single vehicle crashes [rollovers are in this category] 20 percent of restrained children age 0-3 in passenger cars were injured fatally. The percentage was 11 percent for SUVs. In multi-vehicle crashes, again 20 percent of restrained children age 0-3 in passenger cars were injured fatally. The percentage was just 7 percent for children riding in SUVs.
Link to NHTSA study:

Link to IIHS data:

SUV Owners of America is a national non-profit education organization. Mr. McCahill retired from NHTSA in 1996 after nearly twenty years promoting motor vehicle and highway safety, and headed the agency's Office of Public & Consumer Affairs.

Child Passenger Fatalities and Injuries,
Based on Restraint Use, Vehicle Type, Seat
Position, and Number of Vehicles in the Crash


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