Surprise! Small Cars Still More Dangerous Than Big Ones

John Horner
by John Horner
surprise small cars still more dangerous than big ones

As fuel prices hit historic highs, small car safety once again takes center stage. Quoted in the Wall Street Journal, the Insurance Institute's president gets straight to the nub of the matter. "The tradeoff is still there," says Adrian Lund. "Large cars and small cars are both much better designed to protect occupants than 20 years ago, or 10 years ago. But if you look at the fatality rates today, we see the risk doubles for the smallest cars compared to a very large one." The WSJ's Joseph B. White points out that "small cars [that] are a lot safer than they used to be– as safe, by one measure, as midsize cars were a decade ago." Yes, well, a 20-year-old Honda beats the fuel economy pants off a brand new microcar. Which one is safer, and does it matter? (I wouldn't send my wife or daughter out on the mean streets in either.) Anyway, the scribe reprises the old argument that small cars can avoid crashes: "It's reasonable to think that a good driver in a small car could steer out of a situation that would cause a crash for someone in a slower-handling, heavier vehicle with a long stopping distance. But note the qualifier: a good driver."

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  • Blowfish Blowfish on May 28, 2008

    Few days ago I saw a Toyo rolla changed lane wthout payng attention, nearly cut off a Porsche 356 replica. I am not sure if the 356 being a small/ height challenged vehicle, that the Rolla just fail to see. I drive a F250 Diesel truck and an old Merc 300SD. As good old Henry said, Nothing beats the inches.

  • Captain Neek Captain Neek on May 28, 2008

    The problem is that people purchase trucks and minivans for their families in the mistaken belief that they are safe... Euro NCAP recently started testing trucks and the results are frightening: So, what's REALLY safer, esp when you add poor handling, greater propensity to rolloever and the like into the mix?

  • Joeaverage Joeaverage on Jun 06, 2008

    Blowfish: Toyota prob didn't see it. Drove an '83 CR-X for a year and a half and I loved that car despite it's cosmetic challenges (nobody has loved that car but me). It was so short that several times people almost changed lanes into me. My driving style is I find pretty defensive. I will do anything not to ride next to someone. If I have to (traffic) then I make sure I can see the driver's mirror and that he/she should be able to see me. In short I drive like I'm on a motorcycle - another mode of transport where people have not seen me several times. On the interstate the CR-X really shined IF semi-trucks were not in the mix. My face was at about the same level as their hubcaps and I suspect I could have passed under their trailers without much trouble. I drove like they NEVER saw me and never had any trouble. Remember one night when I was traveling from VA to TN and found a tandem trailer with a sleepy driver. He was all over the road - especially the 2nd trailer. Dropped back quite a ways and then passed him at 90 mph to minimize my time next to his rig. I doubt my car would have caused more than a bump to him. I think we need less large vehicle and more compacts on the road today (and for the past 20 years) to wean ourselves from this oil addiction courtesy of the Arab teats. Efficient small cars would take us a long way so in that way I welcome high fuel prices. Compacts are also the easiest chassis to use for EVs so again I want more compacts on the road. And small cars vs small cars in a crash is safer. Saw where oil took another big leap upwards today...

  • Beelzebubba Beelzebubba on Jun 10, 2008

    My dad recently retired his '98 Jeep Grand Cherokee from commuter duty. He drives almost 80 miles round trip each day and 18mpg just wasn't cutting it. He now makes that same long commute in my grandmother's '90 Honda Civic. I was, and continue to be, very concerned about the safety of an 18-year old subcompact in a world full of soccer mom's driving massive SUVs. I'm trying to talk him into a new Civic. My first car back in 1990 was an '85 Honda CRX. At the time, I didn't give the size/safety of it a moment of thought. Today, I doubt I'd venture onto a highway in it. My Mazda3 is about as small as I care to go!