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Literature Review: Vehicle Size, Mass and Safety

This literature review includes a summary of important works developed over the past 20 years to clearly identify the relationship between vehicle size, mass and societal safety.

Research Highlights

  • Most studies found safety performance is not well correlated to vehicle attributes of size or mass.
  • Mass reduction in only lighter-than-average cars was associated with a statistically-significant increase in fatality risk; for the other vehicle types, mass reduction was associated with increases or decreases in fatality risk that were not statistically significant.
  • Mass reduction in lighter cars is associated with an increase in societal fatalities, mass reduction in the heavier LTVs is associated with a decrease in societal fatalities, and mass reduction in the intermediate classes has little effect.
  • There was little correlation between mass and fatality risk by vehicle model, even after accounting for all other vehicle attributes, driver characteristics, and crash circumstances. any reasonable combination of mass reductions while holding footprint constant concentrated in the heavier LTVs and limited in the lighter cars – would likely be approximately safety-neutral; it would not significantly increase fatalities and might well decrease them.
  • Mass reduction in lighter cars is associated with an increase in societal fatalities, mass reduction in the heavier LTVs is associated with a decrease in societal fatalities, and mass reduction in the intermediate classes has little effect.

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