“Common sense” tells us that larger sports utilities vehicles (SUVs) and pick-up trucks are safer in an accident, but ground breaking studies and our car accident law firm’s experience in over a quarter of a century of handling serious car accident cases, tells us otherwise.

Our car accident law firm has seen this fact pattern a surprising number of times: Our client, a strong and hardworking thirty-something pick up truck or SUV driver, is stopped at a stop light, and behind our client is an elderly driver in a Honda or a Toyota, also stopped, when a texting teenager in a new Nissan at full speed slams into the elderly driver’s car which slams into the back of our client’s pick-up truck or SUV.

Most people would guess that the pick-up driver or SUV driver will be safer simply because they are in a larger vehicle, but here is where that presumption fails: we have seen the elderly person in the Honda (or similar car) and the teenage texting driver (in a small Nissan or similar car) typically walk away from such accidents with no injuries while our car accident law firm’s client in the pick-up or SUV has catastrophic life threatening injuries which ultimately cause our client to become totally disabled and unable to work for life. How is that possible? Is it some lawyer trick? Sadly, the answer is no: our clients are genuinely, severely, and permanently injured which even the defense attorneys we go up against must admit if they hope to retain any shred of credibility in front of a jury.

The answer: Pick-up truck and larger SUVs (think F-150, Silverado, Ram, Suburban, Yukon, Escalade, etc.) are built on what is known as “ladder frames” which are a hardened steel frame shaped like a ladder that truck or SUV bodies are bolted onto during assembly.

Simply stated, the unibody construction of many smaller cars are designed with crush zones without hardened steel ladder frames which allow the energy from a crash to dissipate through the crush zones rather than transferring the force of the collision to the passenger in much the same way that an Indy or Formula 1 race car are designed to break a part into many pieces in a collision which causes the collision energy to be transferred away front the driver, reducing the chances of personal injury.

By contrast, the ladder frames in pick-up trucks and larger SUVs do not crush, resulting in the force of the collision being directly transferred to the occupant, causing severe injuries to our car accident law firm’s clients.

Pick-up trucks and larger SUVs are built on a frame to make them more durable for carrying or towing heavy loads and for driving off road. According to stats on Wikipedia, however, less than 15% of pick-up trucks or SUVs are used for transporting work loads or going off-road.

In other words, 85% of truck or SUV owners may be driving them not because they need to carry loads or haul trailers for work, but rather, they drive them because, perhaps, they like the way they think they look in them, or tragically because they erroneously believe such vehicles are safer in an accident.

In a joint Berkley and University of Michigan Study, Ross and Wenzel note that those driving/riding in Suburbans, for example, have a combined 40% higher risk of serious injury or death than the three most popular mid sized sedans: Accord, Camry, and Avalon. It should be noted that a Suburban is considered one of the safest SUVs, and that the study further shows that the risk of serious injury or death to those in a pick-up truck is much higher than that for Suburbans.

This does not even reflect the fact that smaller cars are much more agile and can handle and brake better to avoid accidents in the first place, unlike the much larger, ponderous, and lumbering pick-up trucks and SUVs.

The bottom line: if you are buying a pick-up truck or large SUV built on a body on ladder frame-type design and if you are part of the 85% who do not use their pick up trucks to haul or tow loads for work, do not kid yourself into thinking you are driving that vehicle because it is safer, because numerous studies—and our car accident law firm’s extensive experience in handling car accident injuries for over 25 years—suggests otherwise. The next time you buy a vehicle, be car wise and do your research as the type of vehicle you drive can very well cause—or help prevent—serious injury or death to you and your loved ones.

Learn what to do and what information to collect at a crash scene before you are involved in a car accident by clicking our blog article here.