Any vehicle can be relatively safe, and vehicles have been getting safer over the years. Even small sedans and coupes can get excellent crash test ratings and protect the occupants.
That being said, on a very basic level, you’re still safer to be in an SUV than a sedan. Even with all of the safety advancements and changes in technology, basic physics still hold true: A larger, heavier vehicle is going to be safer for its passengers than a lighter, smaller one. The reason is simply that the energy from the larger object will transfer into the smaller one during the crash.
An example one expert used was a golf club and a pop can. When striking the can with the club, the much larger and heavier club crushes the can and sends it flying, all with very little obvious damage to the club. This example doesn’t perfectly hold up since the club is solid, but the same basic idea remains true. The smaller vehicle is more likely to be crushed by the larger one.
The statistics show that this happens all the time on American highways. In an SUV crash when the SUV hits a car, those in the SUV are between four and seven times more likely to survive the accident without injury, walking away from the crash, than the people in the car.
The difference in size makes SUVs dangerous to other drivers. If two small cars crash, experts note that the odds are much better that people in both vehicles will be fine. The energy levels are the same, so there’s not the uneven transfer that comes when a small car hits an SUV. Therefore, those who are hit by SUVs have a greater chance of sustaining serious injuries, and they must know their rights to compensation to cover those costs.
Source: The Zebra, “Which Type of Vehicle is Safest: SUVs or Sedans?,” Julia Eddington, accessed Dec. 22, 2016