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In a head-on col­li­sion between a pas­sen­ger car and a sport-utility vehi­cle, which pas­sen­gers are more likely to sur­vive is the topic of a recent study pre­sented at an emer­gency med­i­cine conference.

The find­ings are reveal­ing and impor­tant for motorists to know.

In a head-on col­li­sion between a pas­sen­ger car and a sport-utility vehi­cle, the dri­ver of the SUV is as much as 10 times more likely to sur­vive, accord­ing to a new study – even if the pas­sen­ger car has a bet­ter crash safety rating.

The find­ings, to be pre­sented at an emer­gency med­i­cine con­fer­ence today, show that despite more than a decade of efforts by fed­eral reg­u­la­tors and auto­mo­tive engi­neers to reduce the risks in car-truck crashes, there’s only so much that can be done to over­come the laws of physics.

“The over­whelm­ing major­ity of fatal­i­ties occur in the smaller and lighter of the two vehi­cles,” explains Dr. Diet­rich Jehle, a pro­fes­sor of emer­gency med­i­cine at New York’s Erie County Med­ical Cen­ter, and one of the authors of the new study con­ducted by the Uni­ver­sity of Buffalo.

Automak­ers have taken a num­ber of steps to improve car/truck “com­pat­i­bil­ity,” chang­ing bumper designs on SUVs, for exam­ple, so there’s more direct con­tact with lower sedans and coupes in a crash. Nonethe­less, even when a small SUV impacts a large pas­sen­ger car, the dri­ver of the util­ity vehi­cle is more likely to sur­vive, the research found, because the trucks are more likely to “ride over” the car, accord­ing to Dr. Jehle, “crush­ing the occupants.”

The new study was based on data from 83,521 fatal head-on crashes between 1995 and 2010 reports by the gov­ern­ments Fatal­ity Analy­sis Report­ing Sys­tem, or FARS. The results are being pre­sented at the annual meet­ing of the Soci­ety of Aca­d­e­mic Emer­gency Med­i­cine in Atlanta.