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Question: Car Safety Ratings for The Engineers Here
Old 12-19-2013, 07:31 PM   #1
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Question: Car Safety Ratings for The Engineers Here

I have a question on car safety for the engineers, car buffs, or anyone else who wants to chime in. I usually check the IIHS car ratings before we buy a new or used car. The IIHS ratings are based on car type / size.

I am not aware of any car safety ratings on an absolute scale as to which cars are safer than others. I am trying to decide between the small and mid size cars.

Given the same safety ratings, would a top pick mid size car (~3300 pounds) like an Outback, Camry, or Fusion be significantly safer than a top pick small car (~2900 pounds) like a Focus or Mazda 3?

Does 400 pounds make a difference for passenger safety? They have top pick and top pick plus for safety ratings? Are the top pick pluses significantly safer?

Any advice is appreciated.
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Old 12-19-2013, 08:10 PM   #2
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I find the IIHS article on driver death rates to be illuminating.

http://www.iihs.org/externaldata/srdata/docs/sr4605.pdf

In general, the lowest death rates (for the cars studied) are minivans, then SUVs. Cars are next with, in general, heavier generally cars doing better although it does vary quite a bit by specific model. Not surprisingly, pick up trucks don't do as well as cars.

To your specific question these are overall driver date ratings (smaller numbers are better) -

Camry - 46 (Camry Hybrid is 36)
Fusion - 23
Outback - 40

V.

Focus - 60
Mazda 3 - 52

These are based upon cars in the 2005-2008 model years. IIHS explains here why it takes awhile to have death rate reports on cars so why it is using those vehicle years.

And there is variation within the ranks.

For 4 door cars - The lowest mini car is 65 (Yaris), the highest is 119 (Chevrolet Aveo). The lowest small is 52 (Prius), the highest is 117 (Chevrolet Cobalt). The lowest midsize is 19 (Accord), the highest is 99 (Chevrolet Malibu). The lowest large is 35 (Chrysler 300 Hemi), the highest is 77 (Buick Lucerne). The lowest Very large is 33 (Crown Victoria) and the highest is 57 (Grand Marquis). Note that midsize cars have an overall rating of 55 (ranging from 19 to 99) while large has the overall rating of 55 (ranging from 35 to 77). There are also ratings for 4 door cars and for other types of vehicles (SUVs, minivans, pick ups).

For luxury cars, note that midsize have an average rating of 31, while large is 24 and very large is 39 (very large is 2 cars - BMW 7 at 30 and Lincoln Town Car at 54).
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Old 12-19-2013, 08:14 PM   #3
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Thanks, Katsmeow. I will have a look at that section of the IIHS site.
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Old 12-19-2013, 08:18 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Katsmeow View Post
I find the IIHS article on driver death rates to be illuminating.
I find this part to be illogical:

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Originally Posted by Katsmeow View Post
The lowest Very large is 33 (Crown Victoria) and the highest is 57 (Grand Marquis).
The Crown Vic and Grand Marquis are essentially the same car, just different trim and badges. The 24 point difference in scores makes me question the validity of the information.
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Old 12-19-2013, 08:25 PM   #5
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I find this part to be illogical:



The Crown Vic and Grand Marquis are essentially the same car, just different trim and badges. The 24 point difference in scores makes me question the validity of the information.
The information may have flaws, but some of the results may also be due to age and driving style of the driver. Minivans are going to have an advantage besides size in that they are usually driven by people unlikely to engage in habits like street racing, or at least I never noticed that happening among with the minivan driving, soccer moms in our neighborhood.
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Old 12-19-2013, 10:41 PM   #6
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If a small car is designed to be safe it absorbs impact by design in the right places to help ensure less passenger compartment deflection. The same data points are tested on a bigger vehicle and both may "perform" equally we'll according to what the test results are targeting. All that being the same, you'd still fair better in the same crash conditions in the equally well test resulting heavier vehicle. Any engineer can tell you why:


Force = mass x acceleration

The larger vehicle in a two car crash has more mass to counteract the oncoming force from the other side of the equation.

Of course you can make up for that loss of mass by managing to apply more brake before impact to reduce acceleration as well a split second before impact!
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Old 12-19-2013, 11:12 PM   #7
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The information may have flaws, but some of the results may also be due to age and driving style of the driver. Minivans are going to have an advantage besides size in that they are usually driven by people unlikely to engage in habits like street racing, or at least I never noticed that happening among with the minivan driving, soccer moms in our neighborhood.
This database is quite interesting. As puzzling as it looks, it is actual death reports collected from real life accidents. So, more than the car safety design is involved here. The demographics of buyers of a specific car would be a major factor.
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Old 12-19-2013, 11:30 PM   #8
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This database is quite interesting. As puzzling as it looks, it is actual death reports collected from real life accidents. So, more than the car safety design is involved here. The demographics of buyers of a specific car would be a major factor.
And location. Four wheel drive Outbacks might be driven, on average, in more treacherous driving conditions than a comparable size Camry.

Overall the report provides a lot of good food for thought, and car weight and size are something to consider.
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Old 12-20-2013, 08:10 AM   #9
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I find this part to be illogical:

The Crown Vic and Grand Marquis are essentially the same car, just different trim and badges. The 24 point difference in scores makes me question the validity of the information.
I noticed this, too. I used to do a lot of quality analysis in my j*b and was amazed at the differences in perceived quality between two vehicles that came off the same assembly line with different badging, especially when the badge said "Mazda". Not sure how it applies here - maybe an indication of statistical variation.
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Old 12-20-2013, 08:12 AM   #10
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..........Force = mass x acceleration .....
Yea, I'd say this is basically it, combined with driver demographics.
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Old 12-20-2013, 08:44 AM   #11
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Force = mass x acceleration
Any accident investigator knows that from simple experience. In the early/mid '80's a guy I knew bought his daughter a '72 Fleetwood to drive to college for that reason. The thing was a true land yacht but he figured the only thing that would hurt her in a wreck was something made by Peterbuilt.
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Old 12-20-2013, 09:16 AM   #12
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Here's a short article from Edmunds, Are Small Cars Safe? Edmunds.com, which says basically the same thing. Bigger cars have more mass to dissipate the energy from the crash. Small car safety involves designing how the passenger compartment remains intact during a crash. An indy race car is designed to do that but it's not affordable on a mass scale.

Other sources are safecar.gov which has the crash test results. The demographics ( or something ) is making a huge difference in the IIHS data, because safecar shows identical crash test results for the crown vic vs Grand Marquis, 1990-2010 Vehicle Search Results | Safercar -- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

And just look at that 350Z... I almost bought one of those!
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Old 12-20-2013, 09:33 AM   #13
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I saw this video of a older, bigger Volvo in a head on with a smaller, newer Renault built under more recent safety standards and this time the smaller car did come out ahead -



Perhaps with safety standards being equal or at least more comparable, bigger will come out ahead. But this video is partly what prompted me to post my original question.

I am interested in having a car with better MPG, but looking at the safety tests and death results, I am remembering why we bought the cars that we have now. I just don't see the safety statistics as clearly as I see the credit card charges when we go to the gas pump.
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Old 12-20-2013, 02:20 PM   #14
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I find this part to be illogical:



The Crown Vic and Grand Marquis are essentially the same car, just different trim and badges. The 24 point difference in scores makes me question the validity of the information.
Perhaps there are so few Mercs on the road anymore that an unusually bad year skewed the results?

Ha
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Old 12-20-2013, 02:24 PM   #15
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I recall a car executive being "roasted" in front of Congress (guessing it was late 70's/early 80's) about car safety. The "roastee" executive answered (paraphrased)
"Well, Senator, we already produce a product tested to withstand a 30 MPH crash."
Senator "Why isn't it on the market?"
Roastee "Oh, it is, Senator. You already buy it for the military. It is a TANK."

Don't know why I recall that, but I loved it.

More seriously, it is amazing what can be engineered, once the final design criteria are known. The only problem is that costs tend to escalate as design criteria increase (someone mentioned the race car that can side-swipe a race track retaining wall at 200 mph and the driver can walk away.) YMMV
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Old 12-20-2013, 02:24 PM   #16
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Both the Crown Victoria and Grand Marquis have circulation around 500,000 each.

I wonder if the two are sold in different states. Let's say one had to compete with pickups for road survival, while the other owned the streets choked full of foreign sedans.
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Old 12-20-2013, 02:38 PM   #17
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Both the Crown Victoria and Grand Marquis have circulation around 500,000 each.
I wonder if the two are sold in different states. Let's say one had to compete with pickups for road survival, while the other owned the streets choked full of foreign sedans.
Oh wow, that amazes me. A good portion of taxis are Crown Vics, while I have not seen a Mercury Marquis since I don't know when.


Ha
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Old 12-20-2013, 03:05 PM   #18
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In another blog / forum I read a lot of anti-SUV, anti new car comments, but also a reference to the Millionaire Next Door. So I looked at the Thomas Stanley blog and saw he wrote "My wife drives a Z71 Chevrolet Tahoe that sits next to my Toyota 4 Runner. The Tahoe is very reliable, big, heavy and protective."

He also wrote "Over time the facts and words found in TMND get twisted. It is a myth that most millionaire next door types only buy used cars. In fact, for every one millionaire that is used vehicle prone there are two who tend to buy new vehicles."

We looked at a local CarMax recently for a used car, but the prices were pretty high for the mileage on the models we were interested in, so we are back to looking at new cars and current safety ratings. My concern with a used car is that if we end up with a couple of major repair bills, then for the same amount of money we could have had a new car for the same price with at least a three year warranty and more up to date safety standards.
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Old 12-20-2013, 04:28 PM   #19
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The driver death rate differences between the Crown Vic and the Mercury Marquis have been persistent and talked about. For example, in the 2001-4 study, they look at 2003-4 Crown Vic and Grand Marquis and driver death rates are 45 and 75 respectively. Likewise, the prior study covering 1999-2002 for these vehicles is 53 for the Crown Vic and 83 for the Grand Marquis.

Here is an article talking about the prior version of the IIHS death rate study for vehicles from 2001-2004 which talks about the difference between the two vehicles. The IIHS spokesman seems to think that this is due to driver factors.

Study says driver death rates have fallen, but some question findings


I saw one discussion which seemed to feel it is due to an age difference between the Crown Vic and Mercury Marquis drivers. Also, the fact that Crown Vics are often used by police departments. While Mercury Marquis is skewed to older people (I note that my 89 year old mother drives a Mercury Marquis).
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Old 12-20-2013, 04:32 PM   #20
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Also, the fact that Crown Vics are often used by police departments. While Mercury Marquis is skewed to older people (I note that my 89 year old mother drives a Mercury Marquis).
+1

The Crown Vic/cop car connection is probably a key factor in the difference we're seeing in the numbers.
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