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Does Vehicle Weight Impact How Deadly a Crash Is?

December 10, 2023
Car accidents

Understanding the impact of a vehicle’s weight on the severity of crashes is crucial for drivers, especially in a bustling city like Denver. In my opinion, if you understand how heavy your car is, you might drive a little more defensively.

For example, if you drive a small car, you need to make sure none of those big SUVs hit you because, in that scenario, you’re the underdog and you will likely be injured.

On the other hand, if you drive a giant truck, it’s important to understand that your vehicle could easily cause more destruction than you can imagine, so you should adjust your speeds accordingly.

As a personal injury attorney with decades of experience in Colorado car accident cases, I’ve seen firsthand how the weight and size of a vehicle can dramatically alter the outcome of a collision. This article delves into the various vehicle types, from compact cars to full-size trucks, and includes a special focus on the burgeoning category of electric vehicles (EVs).

Are Compact Cars Safe?

Are compact cars safe?

Photo credit: bertknot / flickr

Compact cars, known for their convenience and fuel efficiency, are a popular choice in urban settings. However, their lightweight nature, typically ranging from 2,500 to 3,000 pounds, can be a disadvantage in collisions. Studies show that in accidents involving larger vehicles, occupants of compact cars are more likely to sustain significant injuries. Despite advances in safety technology, the fundamental laws of physics dictate that lighter vehicles tend to fare worse in crashes.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t buy a compact. It’s a smart decision if you’re trying to use less gas. But you do need to drive in a way that allows trucks and other heavy vehicles around you to predict your next move. Don’t surprise a truck by cutting it off… you’ll be the loser in that collision.

Sedans: The Middle Ground

Are sedans safer than compact cars?

Photo credit: RL GNZLZ / flickr

Sedans, which usually weigh between 3,000 to 4,000 pounds, offer a middle ground. They provide better protection in accidents than compact cars due to their slightly larger mass and structure. However, sedans still face disadvantages when colliding with heavier vehicles.

The design and safety features of modern sedans have evolved to offer better crash protection, but they cannot completely negate the risks associated with their weight class.

This is probably a good place for me to remind you that safety fundamentals are the best way to protect yourself: wear your seatbelt, obey the speed limit, don’t drive and text. Everyone on the road should be following the rules, but especially if you are in a smaller car. You’re simply more vulnerable.

The Safety of SUVs: Bigger and Heavier


Photo credit: William Warby / flickr

Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) have gained immense popularity due to their perceived safety and versatility. Weighing anywhere from 4,000 to 5,500 pounds, SUVs provide a sense of security for many drivers. Their heavier weight can offer more protection in a crash, particularly when colliding with smaller vehicles.

However, this advantage comes with a caveat: SUVs have a higher center of gravity, which can increase the risk of rollovers in certain types of collisions.

I was recently on 8th Avenue near the new Colorado and 9th Avenue development when I saw an SUV literally flip onto its side while trying to take a left-hand turn. The speed limit in that area is 30! Clearly, this driver was going way above the speed limit and trying to cut a corner as he turned.

The weight and high center of gravity in some SUVs means you must be cautious about “throwing your weight around.”

Full-Size Trucks are Safer for Occupants, Dangerous for Others

Trucks are safer for occupants but dangerous for others

Photo credit: Truck Hardware / flickr

Full-size trucks are the heavyweights on the road, often weighing over 5,500 pounds. In collisions, their substantial mass can significantly reduce the risk of injury to their occupants. However, this increased protection for truck drivers often translates to more severe consequences for occupants of smaller vehicles involved in the crash. The disparity in weight and size raises important considerations about vehicular safety and responsibility.

A few years ago, I had a client who was in a multi-car pileup on I25 down by Larkspur. My client hit black ice, ran into the vehicle in front of him (which was already part of the pileup), and ended up sideways on the road. Realizing he was ok, he looked over his shoulder just in time to see a Silverado pickup truck careening toward him.

It T-boned him, sending him to the hospital. Later, we learned that the truck driver was going far too fast for the conditions. When I see full-size trucks speeding down a road, especially in a neighborhood, I think of it as a weapon with mass destruction capabilities. If you own a big pickup, please drive responsibly.

Are Electric Vehicles Safe? The New Variable

Electric vehicles parked

Photo credit: Windell Oskay / flickr

Electric vehicles (EVs) introduce a new dimension to the conversation. EVs tend to be heavier than their internal combustion engine counterparts due to their battery packs. For example, a typical EV can weigh 20% to 30% more than a similar-sized gasoline-powered car. This additional weight can impact crash dynamics significantly. While EVs often come equipped with advanced safety features, their increased mass can lead to more severe outcomes for other vehicles involved in collisions.

And here’s the other thing about electric vehicles: they’re fast! When you add that potential for speed with the extra weight, you’re looking at a deadly combination in a crash. If you drive an EV in Colorado, please watch your speed because that car is super heavy.

The Role of Vehicle Weight in Crash Severity

Traffic in Denver

Photo credit: Nabeel Syed / Unsplash

In any vehicle collision, weight plays a pivotal role. Heavier vehicles tend to fare better in terms of occupant protection but can pose greater risks to others on the road. This disparity highlights the importance of responsible driving, regardless of your vehicle’s size.

Legal Implications of Being in a Car Crash with a Heavy Vehicle

Lady justice

Photo credit: Wesley Tingey / Unsplash

From a legal perspective, understanding these accident dynamics is essential. As a Denver personal injury attorney, I’ve represented clients who experienced various crash scenarios. The vehicle’s weight and type often become crucial factors in legal claims, influencing the assessment of liability and damages.

As drivers, it’s vital to be aware of how our vehicle’s weight impacts safety—not only for ourselves but for others on the road. Whether you drive a compact car, a sedan, an SUV, a full-size truck, or an electric vehicle, driving responsibly is the key to ensuring safety on the roads.

If you’ve been in a crash with a car that was much heavier than yours and you need some legal advice, please call or text me today. There’s no charge for a consultation and you may learn a lot about your case. 303-388-5304


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