Automobile Weight and Safety

T-PEMD-91-2: Published: Apr 11, 1991. Publicly Released: Apr 11, 1991.

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GAO discussed the relationship between automobile size and safety. GAO found that: (1) heavier cars were not invariably safer than lighter ones, because the highest fatality rates occurred in cars in the middle of the weight distribution; (2) between 1986 and 1988, single-car accidents accounted for 39 percent of the fatalities, two-vehicle crashes accounted for 51 percent of fatalities, and 10 percent of fatalities occurred in accidents involving 3 or more vehicles; (3) vehicular track width, rather than changes in vehicle weight, was a critical factor affecting rollover accidents; (4) in two-car collisions, the occupants of the lighter car were at greater risk than were the occupants of the heavier vehicle; and (5) if all cars weighed less, the vulnerability of lighter cars in two-car crashes would decline slightly due to the reduced threat to them from heavier cars.

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