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Study Finds SUVs Not Safer for Children in Vehicle Accidents

Children are just as likely to be injured in an accident riding in a sport-utility vehicle as in passenger car, a study found.

The study, published in this month's Pediatrics journal, found that the risk of injury to children wearing appropriate safety restraints was about 1.7 percent regardless of vehicle type, based on accident reports involving 3,922 children under the age of 16.

Child injuries from rollover accidents were more common in SUVs and outweighed the safety benefits of larger, heavier vehicle frames, according to an analysis of insurance claims collected between March 2000 and December 2003 from State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.

The risk of injury was 25 times greater in SUV rollover crashes when children weren't wearing a seatbelt, the study found. About 36 percent of fatal SUV crashes involved rollovers last year, according to the NHTSA, which operates a Web site for consumers with ratings on vehicle crashes and rollovers.

The study, by researchers from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, also found that children who were exposed to deployed passenger air bags in either types of vehicle were more than four times more likely to be injured in an accident.

The perception of SUVs as trendy, safe family cars has helped drive sales in the past decade.

Wide Wheel Base

Several SUVs, including Ford's Freestyle and DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Pacifica, earned a four-star rating in the federal traffic safety agency's 2005 rollover ratings.

Fewer SUV Sales

Ford and General Motors Corp. have sold fewer large truck- based SUVs in the U.S. this year in part because of higher gasoline prices and growing popularity of smaller SUVs built on car frames. These "crossover'' vehicles offer more fuel economy and better handling then larger SUVs.

State Farm provided funding for the Partners for Child Passenger Safety program, a collaborative research project with the Children's Hospital that supplied the data used in this study.


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