Monday, August 18, 2014

The escalating "arms war" in car "safety".

There's an interesting (and faulty) assumption that too many drivers make today : that you need a big car to be safe. In the US especially, super-sized SUVs are regarded as being super-safe because of their size. The problem is that when manufacturer A builds a slightly bigger one, then manufacturer B has to follow suit and then the car buyers see the bigger vehicle and assume that it must be safer. Never mind gas-mileage. Never mind practicality and usability, forward or rear visibility. Never mind that an increasing number of people are so dwarfed by their vehicles that they can't safely operate them. No - size is king, and when it comes to mothers with kids on the school run, absolute size rules at the expense of actual safety, common sense and logic.
This is going to come across as sexist, but it's a simple matter of geometry. Women, generally speaking, are smaller than men. When a decent-sized man can't get in or out of their SUV without adding steps and handles, and has to push the steering wheel down and the seat forwards just to be able to operate it, explain to me how a shorter woman who can barely see over the steering wheel is going to be able to safely operate the car. They can't. But they compensate by having the mental attitude that because it's bigger, it must be safer.
I have, sadly, two direct examples where the bigger vehicle lost out in a good sized smash. The first one was a Ford F-150 that hit my wife in her Toyota Yaris. Both vehicles were written off, so right there the 'bigger is better' mantra is undone because the damage to the F-150 turned out to be much more severe than the damage to the Yaris. Both drivers were injured. My wife only mildly - airbag and seatbelt burns. The F-150 driver was hospitalised for two days and had a broken leg. Again - bigger does not equal better.
The second example was when my own car - my Evoque - was pit-manuevered by a woman in an oversized SUV who didn't see me because she couldn't see around the blind spots and/or was more concerned with her children in the back than she was with the act of driving. The end of my spinout resulted in me hitting a parked Nissan Armada. Both the woman's SUV and the parked Nissan Armada were written off - they folded up like newspaper. It was shocking to see. My Evoque needed repairs, but was not written off because structurally it survived without any faults. The most surprising aspect was exactly how badly the Armada was damaged. The front of my car had a pushed-in bumper, a bent frame-end hangar (where the bumper is mounted) and then obviously radiator and headlight damage. The Armada exploded it's front wheel and tyre, bent the frame on both sides, folded the hood into the windshield, bent the passenger side door so badly it couldn't be opened, and utterly destroyed the roof. The headlight and radiator were done for, as was the a/c compressor, the water pump and most of the other ancilliary items on the front of the engine.
But yeah - bigger is better, right?


Birger Delrue said...

There is another point to be made about SUV safety.
SUV's have a much higher center of gravity than an sedan , so if you're SUV gets hit from the side , there is a much larger chance of rolling the car over.

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