4/21/2009

The Danger of Small Cars

The WSJ has this:

Critics of a shift to smaller cars have a powerful ally in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The IIHS, the insurance industry's auto-safety research arm, has long argued against small cars on safety grounds. Earlier this month, the IIHS upped the ante with a video of crash tests it conducted pitting midsize cars against three new minicars.

The Institute's images of a Smart for two getting crushed and thrown spinning into the air after a head-on collision with a midsize Mercedes C-Class sedan dramatize every driver's worst fear -- that no matter how careful you are, someday a car will veer into your lane. That's the moment when you want your car to save your life, and never mind the mileage. . . . .


Why aren't people's safety and lives as important as saving some gas? Why can't we let consumers make these decisions on the trade-offs that they are willing to make?

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11 Comments:

Blogger Matthew said...

That's a stupid argument. Try pitting a a car vs a 18-wheel truck, the car will be pulverized - so we should all drive truck cabs? The smaller cars make it safer for everyone else on the road, just as SUVs made it more dangerous for everyone in a compact. Once the majority of drivers are in smaller cars we will be no more or less at risk as a whole, than we were before.

4/21/2009 12:30 PM  
Blogger John Lott said...

Dear Matthew:

Sorry, but you are wrong. If two small cars crash into each other, the odds of fatalities and injuries are higher than if two large cars crashed at the same speed. It is simply a question of physics. Larger cars can and do devote more area around the occupants to protecting them (crumble zones for example).

4/21/2009 12:49 PM  
OpenID curtislowe said...

Because, John, then the liberals would not be able to legislate societal behavior...

Just like with gun control, it's not about BEING safer, it's about FEELING better...

4/21/2009 1:02 PM  
Blogger Chas said...

"Why can't we let consumers make these decisions on the trade-offs that they are willing to make?"

That's great, but it's more like the market says, "Shut up and buy an SUV!" Plenty of those on the market.
Why can't I go to my local Wal-Mart and get a Tata Nano for $2500?
Why can't I get a little FIAT 500 or a $5000 Logan?
Instead, there are these overpriced, faggy little fashion statements like the Smart car or the Cooper Mini. I want a transportation appliance, like a Black & Decker toaster with wheels. There's nothing like that allowed on the market. I currently have a Hyundai Accent, which is as close as I could get. I don't want to put my money into a steel car that I run on salted roads that rust it out. There are better investments.

4/21/2009 8:47 PM  
Blogger Martin G. Schalz said...

"John Lott said...
Dear Matthew:

Sorry, but you are wrong. If two small cars crash into each other, the odds of fatalities and injuries are higher than if two large cars crashed at the same speed. It is simply a question of physics. Larger cars can and do devote more area around the occupants to protecting them (crumble zones for example)."

Excellent point Dr. Lott. Perhaps you can help me convert a '70 Buick Electra 225' to a more efficient motor? I'd love to test kinetic energy vs crumple zones...

I just hate to pay the higher fuel costs of the old deuce and a quarter!


Can we say 'Buick Ballistic Behemoth, Detroit Dreadnaught Class, vs a compact car? Or the old Buick vs a modern full size vehicle? The old Buick should win, as the kinetic energy of the old Buick will be absorbed by the newer vehicle.

Please forgive me Dr. Lott, as I am not above some forms of sarcasm, yet I think others will fail to see the science here.

4/21/2009 10:57 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

The argument we are talking about pits larger cars vs smaller: "...a video of crash tests it conducted pitting midsize cars against three new minicars."

If you want to expand beyond that, those physics cut both ways. It is probably true that a crash between 2 large cars is safer for passengers than a crash between 2 minis, but I would guess that the larger cars wreak more damage to pedestrians, cyclists and such, partly because they have more mass and energy, but also because they take up more road. According to the World Health Organization half of all crash victims are pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists.

A person may buy a huge vehicle to make themselves and their family more safe, but they threaten everybody else. It's the role of legislation and regulation to think about the safety of everybody.

4/22/2009 11:39 AM  
Blogger Martin G. Schalz said...

"The argument we are talking about pits larger cars vs smaller: "...a video of crash tests it conducted pitting midsize cars against three new minicars."


Matthew; You must first understand physics.

To reduce the size of an auto cockpit does involve a compromise of the structural integregity of the living space of said cockpit.

You, sir, provided the means to counter your own argument.

If I design an auto with a larger crumple zone, I have more space in which I can assure an occupant a decent chance not to be crushed to death. This is the concept of personal saftey that Dr. Lott may have been trying to convey.

As said designer, I need as much space as possible within said design so as to absorb as much energy as possible vs time. To put another way, I must have the most time as possible to 'unload' the kinetic energy of the occupant as I can get under the rules that are applied to my design.

You, Matthew, are telling me that I must discard passenger saftey, so I can be 'GREEN' in my design, and saftey be damned!


Energy vs time. That is the crux of the problem sir, and I wish you could understand that before posting things which you fail to comprehend!

To accomodate all, is impossible. To ask me to design an automobile that will withstand everything, and anything, is impossible.


I can design an auto which is fuel efficient, or I can design an auto which is safe, yet you ask me to do both. Not gonna be prudent, and not gonna happen!

When I, in the job as a Design Engineer, am faced with power vs weight ratios in order to acheive effiency standards to placate those who wish to reduce Carbon emmisions, and then am forced to comply with structural saftey demands, I must follow the rules of the government as applied to automobiles. You, Sir, haven't a clue as to the problem!

I can give you a safe auto, or I can give you a 'green auto'. I cannot achieve both, and make both both parties happy!

4/22/2009 11:46 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Martin - you didn't read what I wrote.

I said our argument pitted small cars against larger because that's the study the article talks about. Read the article - it doesn't talk about like vs like.

Then you seem to think I argued small cockpits are as safe as larger - when I did not. I conceded that large cockpits are probably safer for the passengers.

Then you seem to think I am writing in favor of green cars - but I never mention that issue at all.

Then you ignore my counter-argument that large cars may be more safe for those inside the car, but since half of all accident victims are supposedly on bicycles, motorcycles or on foot, they are much more dangerous for accident victims overall.

I'm you want to tell people that they have "no clue" you would maybe want to read what you are criticizing.

4/23/2009 11:43 AM  
Blogger Martin G. Schalz said...

Larger vs smaller Matthew.

Upon reading your post again, I see that you did say this... "but I would guess that the larger cars wreak more damage to pedestrians, cyclists and such, partly because they have more mass and energy, but also because they take up more road. According to the World Health Organization half of all crash victims are pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists."

In your response to I, you pointed this out again.

"Then you ignore my counter-argument that large cars may be more safe for those inside the car, but since half of all accident victims are supposedly on bicycles, motorcycles or on foot, they are much more dangerous for accident victims overall."

As a person who has worked in the auto industry, I simply pointed out the problems that exist within said industry. These problems are a direct result of not only the market forces, but of government regulation.

I agree that those whom are killed, or seriously injured are unprotected folks. This is a matter of infrastructure, and proper training of operators of motor vehicles.

We either seperate small cars from big cars, pedestrians from all vehicles, or we accept the consequences from our own personal choices.

It is not the role of legislation to control us, we must control ourselves and those idiots whom we elect.

4/23/2009 2:45 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

I wouldn't sneer at government regulation. It can cause unintended problems - but look at what cars would be without them. Seat belts, soft material dashboards, turn signals, brake lights - surely you don't think all of these should be voluntary?

4/23/2009 11:42 PM  
Blogger Martin G. Schalz said...

"I wouldn't sneer at government regulation. It can cause unintended problems - but look at what cars would be without them. Seat belts, soft material dashboards, turn signals, brake lights - surely you don't think all of these should be voluntary?"

You wouldn't but I do. Yes, they do cause problems.

Can we say Chrysler Airflow? So many 'modern features', yet it wasn't accepted. We need not government to dictate to us those things that we need. We can figure it out for ourselves!

Seat belts... They were thought of years before the Feds ever embraced the idea. Damn near 80 years before the Feds stepped in.

Dash boards are not made out of soft material. Not by a long shot. The structure is metal, but is designed to fail in the event of an impact.

Here's the quote from I.

"To put another way, I must have the most time as possible to 'unload' the kinetic energy of the occupant as I can get under the rules that are applied to my design."

I can cover an Anvil with felt, but that in and of itself does not make it soft.

As an individual who was directly involved with the production of IP's, I do know how and why they are constructed the way that they are.

Turn signals. They were an option for decades before you and I were born. This includes motorcycles too! Brake lights were not an option before you and I were born. They were standard equipment.

I'll leave this subject as it is for now, but I do have a clue, and so do others.

4/25/2009 12:26 AM  

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