Trucks and SUVs in the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area: How Dangerous Are They?

Principal Investigator(s):

Pinar Karaca Mandic, Assistant Professor, School of Public Health

Project summary:

Light or heavy trucks and sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) are increasingly popular, in part because they provide improved protection to their own passengers in a crash. However, when a crash occurs, these vehicles also cause greater injury to passengers of other vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists. Because the costs of these injuries are external costs in no-fault auto-liability systems such as those used in Minnesota, consumers may have inefficiently high incentives to purchase light/heavy trucks and SUVs. This study investigated the extent of injury costs associated with light/heavy trucks and SUVs in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. The researchers estimated the relationship between the type of vehicle in crashes involving one light/heavy truck or SUV and one standard passenger car and the level of vehicle damage caused, the likelihood of hospital admissions resulting from the crash, and the hospital charges for those hospitalized from the crash. The analysis showed that the likelihood of hospital admission was highest for occupants of standard cars and lower for occupants of light/heavy trucks or SUVs. For crashes involving hospitalization, occupants of standard cars also incurred higher hospitalization charges on average compared with occupants of light/heavy trucks or SUVs. These findings suggest that light/heavy trucks and SUVs benefit their occupants in terms of the reduced likelihood of a hospital admission and lower hospital charges stemming from a crash, but do so at the expense of standard-car occupants. The researchers suggest several policy changes that would internalize the costs that light/heavy trucks and SUVs impose on occupants of other vehicles and pedestrians and would lead to a more optimal mix of vehicle types in the nation's vehicle fleet.

Project details:

  • Project number: 2010109
  • Start date: 07/2009
  • Project status: Completed
  • Research area: Transportation Safety and Traffic Flow