Looking for something else, I ran across this fact about SUVs:

In 2001, the death rate for people in SUVs was 3.5 percent higher than for people in cars, say figures released Tuesday by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

This runs counter to the intuition of many SUV buyers, who think their massive vehicles are safer than shorter, squatter roadsters. Apparently, the benefits of size—namely, “winning” in a collision with a smaller vehicle—are more than offset by the risks. SUVs have more rollovers, less maneuverability, and longer stopping distances. And they apparently lull drivers into relying on the “passive safety” of vehicle size, rather than the “active safety” of attentive and responsive driving.

And this isn’t the first time that large vehicles have been linked with increased highway risks. A study of recent accident records (here, in .pdf form) found that drivers of SUVs and pickups would be just as safe if they switched to midsized cars, while everyone who shares the road with them would be two to three times safer. Even some compacts and subcompacts are as safe as SUVs—again, not based only on crash tests (where many small cars do well) but on the actual accident records on the road, which are the ultimate litmus tests of safety.

Recognizing the safety problems of SUVs, the insurance industry in the late 1990s considered charging higher rates for SUVs because they were responsible for higher insurance losses. That would have been a good step—it would have internalized some of the health costs of SUV driving. Too bad the idea is still stuck in park.