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Vehicle Safety:IIHS Tests A Few Small Cars Against Medium Cars
Old 04-15-2009, 06:39 PM   #1
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Vehicle Safety:IIHS Tests A Few Small Cars Against Medium Cars

We've bandied this topic around before, but here's more grist for the mill. As many people know, the crash safety ratings for individual cars are only valid for comparison between cars of the same size, it is not possible to use the ratings to determine the relative safety of models in different size categories.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has now run some crash tests between the small cars and larger cars of the same brand.

Toyota: Camry (3680 lbs, 189"L) vs Yaris (2326 lbs, 169"L)
Honda: Accord (3433 lbs, 194"L) vs Fit (2520 lbs, 162"L)
Mercedes: C-Class (3560 lbs, 182.3"L) vs Smart for Two (1852 Lbs, 106"L)

In all cases, the smaller cars were rated "good" within their class, but all rated "poor" (the lowest IIHS rating) when crashed into these larger vehicles.

There's still no quantitative way to compare the risk between cars of various sizes, but it is fairly clear that a larger, heavier car offers considerable safety advantages. The "larger car" in these tests wasn't a jacked-up SUV or a pickup carrying a ton of bricks--just a typical family sedan, and they really tore up the smaller cars.

A video showing the crashes and giving some setup/narration

A WSJ article on the same topic (sorry--might require a subscription)

Here's a link to the IIHS web site. Some snippets:

Quote:
Crash statistics confirm this. The death rate in 1-3-year-old minicars in multiple-vehicle crashes during 2007 was almost twice as high as the rate in very large cars.
Quote:
Though much safer than they were a few years ago, minicars as a group do a comparatively poor job of protecting people in crashes, simply because they're smaller and lighter," Lund says. "In collisions with bigger vehicles, the forces acting on the smaller ones are higher, and there's less distance from the front of a small car to the occupant compartment to 'ride down' the impact. These and other factors increase injury likelihood." The death rate per million 1-3-year-old minis in single-vehicle crashes during 2007 was 35 compared with 11 per million for very large cars. Even in midsize cars, the death rate in single-vehicle crashes was 17 percent lower than in minicars.
I'm with Brewer--when I shop for a new(er) car, I'll probably start my search with cars weighing at least 3000 lbs.
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Old 04-15-2009, 08:00 PM   #2
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Not much of a shock. Engineering can do wonders, but as far as crash test results go, we still have not managed to repeal the laws of physics. Give me a ton and a half of steel, plastic and rubber over a sub 2000# minicar any day. Even better if it has rebar reinforcements and copious airbags.
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Old 04-15-2009, 08:05 PM   #3
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Size matters.
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Old 04-15-2009, 08:28 PM   #4
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I saw that the other day and I am glad I drive larger cars. Anyway, wouldn't it be funny if that's a GM propaganda? Of course, IIHS wouldn't do that...
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Old 04-15-2009, 09:09 PM   #5
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I saw that the other day and I am glad I drive larger cars. Anyway, wouldn't it be funny if that's a GM propaganda? Of course, IIHS wouldn't do that...
Its not GM propaganda. Its IIHS propaganda.
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Old 04-16-2009, 08:42 AM   #6
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I saw that the other day and I am glad I drive larger cars. Anyway, wouldn't it be funny if that's a GM propaganda? Of course, IIHS wouldn't do that...
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Its not GM propaganda. Its IIHS propaganda.
If it is propaganda, we best blame Isaac Newton and his pesky 'laws'.

I prefer smaller cars for cost, environmental reasons (mpg and total materials), and ease of parking and maneuverability and I just prefer the "ride". But I'll probably move up in size a little with my next purchase, it just isn't a good trade-off, IMO.

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Old 04-16-2009, 09:06 AM   #7
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It's about time somebody started putting some realistic discussion out there. Econoboxes are just not safe. Prius/SmartCar drivers don't realize they are driving around death-cars.

compare IIHS injury stats for large cars:

HLDI: Insurance losses by make and model

to small cars:

HLDI: Insurance losses by make and model

look at all that red (Danger) in the small car stats.
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Old 04-16-2009, 09:19 AM   #8
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Yep. "Large"= more crumple zone= more time to "decelerate"=lower forces on occupants.

"Heavy" = lower peak "deceleration" when hitting another vehicle, a guardrail, etc.

I'm not sure if I'd lump the Prius in with the mini/micro cars. It is relatively heavy (2970 lbs) and not very small (175 in total length). If given the choice, I'd prefer a car in which the weight was comprised of engineered crash resistant structure rather than a concentrated battery load, but if the engineering is done right the Prius could still be much safer than it's lighter, smaller cousins.

Later addition: The Prius got an "average" rating in the IIHS Bodily Injury Claims column (link), which is the same as most of the larger cars.

Also, when looking at the IIHS bodily injury experience, it is important to remember that a lot of other factors go into those stats. I'll bet the driver demographics/behavior for the Mustang are different than those for the Buick LeSabre. Still, it is useful informration to take into account.
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Old 04-16-2009, 09:33 AM   #9
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Man, that Yaris gets destroyed by the Camry. Does the video say how fast the cars are going?

I drive a Miata so safety is something I often think about. I only drive 2 miles to work though and don't drive it a lot on highway but I'll probably get a family sedan once my DW and I have kids.

One nice thing about the Miata though is that it's super nimble and responsive. I've been able to avoid a few accidents so accident avoidance is a plus.

I've read some studies that claim family sedans are safer than SUVs. Pickups are also suppose to be very unsafe because of the small cab and disproportional weight balance -- all of the weight is in the front which makes it easier to lose control.
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Old 04-16-2009, 09:46 AM   #10
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It's about time somebody started putting some realistic discussion out there. Econoboxes are just not safe. Prius/SmartCar drivers don't realize they are driving around death-cars.
But compared to a bicycle or motorcycle, they're not. And a larger car is a "death car" compared to a Mack truck.

It's all relative, and as long as that's the case, there will be a demand for being the "bigger" vehicle in case of an accident. Unfortunately the natural outcome is a lot of people driving inefficient vehicles that are otherwise a lot more than they usually need.
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Old 04-16-2009, 09:54 AM   #11
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Man, that Yaris gets destroyed by the Camry. Does the video say how fast the cars are going?
Both cars are going 40 MPH at the time of impact. Since impact energy is a function of the square of the velocity, the results would be a lot more/less graphic if the speeds varied by 10 MPH either way.

In addition to the difference in mechanical damage to the passenger compartments, I'd be interested in knowing the difference in the negative acceleration/neck forces experienced by the instrumented dummies in the small cars and the larger cars. That little Smart Car gets stopped in its tracks very quickly and launched backwards, skittering across the intersection. The potential for neck trauma is very high as the head whips forward while the torso is restrained by the shoulder harness.

I don't think humans are designed for this type of activity.
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Old 04-16-2009, 10:11 AM   #12
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You have the laws of physics (simply relative weight in this case) on the one hand vs increasing cost/scarcity of oil on the other. You can argue about when, but not if. The alternatives aren't close at hand, but time will tell.

Other countries seem to do fine with small cars because they're in the majority. We can't get past the majority part so we keep buying larger cars. That's put the D3 in real fix now hasn't it. No question a Civic will not do well against a Hummer. However, I don't buy the argument about matching up with a semi, the difference between a Civic and a Hummer against a semi is probably narrow - you'd be dead in one or the other.

Will be interesting to see how it resolves in the decades ahead, it appear Americans are going to have to be forced through high fuel taxes, CAFE or other means. By all appearances right now, we're going to be forced to pay more for transportation anyway, none of the alternatives look like they will be cheaper, but maybe we'll innovate our way out of this.
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Old 04-16-2009, 11:18 AM   #13
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But compared to a bicycle or motorcycle, they're not. And a larger car is a "death car" compared to a Mack truck.

It's all relative, and as long as that's the case, there will be a demand for being the "bigger" vehicle in case of an accident. Unfortunately the natural outcome is a lot of people driving inefficient vehicles that are otherwise a lot more than they usually need.
Boy that's a rationalization if I ever heard one.

Ignore the obvious !
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Old 04-16-2009, 12:16 PM   #14
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This type of thread is an interesting look at compartmentalization. Almost everyone here is very risk averse as to career choice, social styles, health/diet and investment choices.

But a proportion that is surprising to me ride motorcycles and bicycles on public roads. To me its clear that bicycles are most dangerous in traffic, scooters next, motorcycles next, and all are much more vulnerable to rider/driver injury than the smallest car. We overemphasize our personal control. Various distracted or impaired people blow through stop signs or red lights regularly. It is only luck that determines the typle of impact if any that ensues. But vehicle type, age, construction and safety features all have a lot to say about what that impact does to the occupants of the cars.

I cannot bring myself to drive big iron, either US or Japanese. And fast well handling medium size cars are usually very expensive. Gas economy is a small thing to me as I drive little.

Right now I have a Subaru Impreza. It's a nice good handling peppy car with a good stick shift and weighs maybe 3300#. A new one would add head protecting side curtain air bags, and better door reinforcement which I think are important especially for city drivers.

It's all a trade-off, but these things that cost money do matter.

Ha
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Old 04-16-2009, 01:17 PM   #15
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Size matters.
Absolutely. Now, if you want to not only survive, but win on highways full of Hummer H2s, Ford Expeditions, and Chevy Suburbans, you'll want something with a bit more mass, height, and preferably a skidplate higher than their roofline.

May I suggest the Landmaster? (Slightly used for one cross-country trip...)
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Old 04-16-2009, 01:29 PM   #16
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This would work



or this


or this

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