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Old Big Car Versus New Small Car, Take Two

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 6th, 2009 at 9:28 am and is filed under Traffic safety. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

4 Responses to “Old Big Car Versus New Small Car, Take Two”

  1. Andy Says:

    I’m confident that small cars have many other advantages as well, which are unfortunately un-documentable.

    If a collision is imminent, the common reaction is to brake and swerve. In a small car, that means you might avoid the collision. In a heavier vehicle, that means you might roll, or not be able to stop in time to avoid the collision. So even if all reports say that a big car is safer, they miss ALL the data of how many collisions are avoided by small cars which were able to maneuver away from a collision.

  2. Jack Says:

    While cycling recently, came across a scene with numerous police cars blocking an interception. The relatively new SUV was completely upside down and the only damage (besides to the roof) was a dent in the passenger door, no broken glass. The SUV was attempting a quick left and rolled over after being hit by a small car. One of the officers said “we see this all the time – the center of gravity on these large vehicles is so high”.

    Amusingly he wanted to talk about my 35 year old bike and asked how I kept it looking like new. By the way, no one was injured in the “accident”.

  3. Eric Says:

    I agree with Andy. Larger cars carry more momentum, and a lot more force is required to change the speed or direction of the mass. So smaller cars are better able to avoid the collision than larger cars.

    The problem only gets worse as the center of gravity gets higher, such is as in SUVs and larger trucks. The higher center of gravity plus the greater mass significantly increase the likelihood of rolling.

    The last time I looked at the data, modern mid-size sedans were among the safest vehicles out there for the occupants (SUVs and trucks among the worst).

    So if you can’t avoid the accident, you’re likely safer in a modern mid-size than a modern compact. That would be an interesting video to see….

  4. Mark Says:

    Agree with Eric…in a 2009, 3000 pound car against a small 2009, 1800 pound car, the larger car, because of its mass, will better protect the occupants, just as school buses, because of their mass, almost always have few injuries to the occupants, as long as they stay upright, and collide with a smaller vehicle–usually the case. The mass of the vehicle helps protect the occupants. As was indicated in the video, it’s very difficult for the designer of a small car to dissipate the energy in a collision to the car versus the occupants. Bicycles and motorcycles, of course, offer little or no protection to the driver.

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Traffic Tom Vanderbilt

How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.

Please send tips, news, research papers, links, photos (bad road signs, outrageous bumper stickers, spectacularly awful acts of driving or parking or anything traffic-related), or ideas for my Slate.com Transport column to me at: info@howwedrive.com.

For publicity inquiries, please contact Kate Runde at Vintage: krunde@randomhouse.com.

For editorial inquiries, please contact Zoe Pagnamenta at The Zoe Pagnamenta Agency: zoe@zpagency.com.

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Metropolis and Mobile Life
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