Highway Safety:

Fatalities in Light Trucks and Vans

PEMD-91-8: Published: Nov 14, 1990. Publicly Released: Nov 14, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO analyzed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatal Accident Reporting System to compare: (1) passenger-car fatality rates to those for standard pickup trucks, small pickups, standard vans, and multipurpose vehicles; and (2) the fatality experience for those vehicle types after statistically controlling for non-vehicle-related factors and only those accidents involving rollovers or side-impact collisions.

GAO found that: (1) the fatality rate was lower for small and standard vans and standard pickups, and higher for small pickups and multipurpose vehicles; (2) multipurpose-vehicle, standard-van, and pickup fatalities were approximately half as likely as passenger-car fatalities, and small van fatalities were slightly less than two-thirds as likely, to have involved a side impact; (3) the increased likelihood of fatal rollover accidents might be attributable to the vehicles themselves; (4) non-passenger-car fatalities were more likely than passenger-car fatalities to involve rollovers, and less likely to involve side impacts; and (5) it did not have the necessary level of detailed exposure data to calculate fatality rates for different types of vehicles adjusted for non-vehicle factors. In addition, GAO found that while it could not demonstrate conclusively that changes in specifications for certain vehicles would result in fewer highway fatalities, its analysis offered persuasive evidence that: (1) rollover fatalities were more likely, and side-impact fatalities less likely, to occur in non-passenger-car vehicles; and (2) those tendencies were vehicle-specific and could not be attributed simply to driver, roadway, or accident characteristics.

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