By on April 15, 2009

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently performed a series of crash tests to garner widespread MSM coverage to justify their enormous operating budget to the insurance companies that pay for the “don’t tell anyone we’re not from the government” organization’s existence—I mean demonstrate the heretofore unimaginable fact that small/lightweight cars get the snot kicked out of them when they collide front-to-front with medium size cars, despite the fact that the small cars involved received the IIHS’ best possible frontal crash ratings. All this came as no surprise to Mike Dulberger, founder of InformedForLife.org.

Mr. Dulberger is an engineer with an OCD vehicle safety thing. He reckons the IIHS and National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) safety ratings are “confusing, conflicting and incomplete.” Amongst other criticisms, Dulberger slates the two heavyweights for failing to adequately consider the contribution of a given vehicle’s mass to its overall safety. So Dulberger developed has own analysis—SCORE (Statistical Combination Of Risk Elements)—to rectify this and other shortcomings.

As you might expect, the small/lightweight cars crash tested by the IIHS fared badly under Dulberger’s SCORE system. Of the three small vehicles tested, the Smart Fortwo held special significance for Mr. Dulberger. Sherman, set the wayback machine for October 2008 . . .

On that fateful date, Dulberger was asked to share his SCORE analysis with Forbes (magazine), as part of their annual “2009 Most Dangerous Vehicles” article. Dulberger duly fingered the Smart (that doesn’t sound right) as a bit of a . . . well . . . you know.

“Not only does the smart have a high risk due to its low weight (1800 lb),’ Dulberger asserts, ‘it also has the lowest NHTSA frontal rating (three stars, passenger side) of any 2009 vehicle. And because of its top heavy design, the smart has almost twice the rollover risk of the average passenger car.”

In fact, the Smart received one of Informedforlife.org’s lowest ever SCOREs: 130. According to Dulberger, the number represents more than twice his system’s “acceptable” fatality risk. All this he told Forbes.

Unfortunately (for the consumer), Forbes forgot to publish Dulberger’s smart conclusions. He believes the sin of omission was the direct result of objections raised by Smart USA’s President, David Schembri.

Before Forbes ran its piece, Schembri somehow got a hold of Dulberger’s phone number and gave him an earful. The Smart guy declared flat out that his car was safe. After all, the IIHS had rated it “GOOD.” Schembri told Dulberger any assertion to the contrary was wrong, irresponsible and, how shall we put this? Actionable.

And so Dulberger’s smart safety slam was spiked. This is what they published instead:

What’s most important for buyers is finding cars that are safe but also suited to their individual needs. The 1,808-pound, $11,990 Smart Fortwo, for example, is the smallest car on the road and received solid safety ratings for both crashes and rollovers–it didn’t come close to making our list. But that doesn’t make the car the safest or best for a large or tall person.

“The NHTSA data simply does not support that conclusion,” Dulberger insists. “Three stars for passenger side frontal impact is the lowest rating by NHTSA for any vehicle, and three stars rollover is the lowest rating by NHTSA for any passenger car.

“It’s hard to believe that this misrepresentation is a mistake given the fact that I pointed these same issues out to them. . . I guess Forbes believes that ‘safety first’ means testing a manufacturers reaction to its editorial content before publishing.”

Or not, when everyone else goes first. And even in that case, well, it’s hard to read this excerpt from Forbes‘ coverage of the recent IIHS smart debacle the same way, knowing Dulberger’s tale.

In the crash test between the C-Class and Fortwo, for example, the Smart bounced off the C-Class and turned 450 degrees before landing and displacing the instrument panel and steering wheel through the cockpit. The C-Class had almost no intrusion of the front gears into the passenger area.

Granted, the IIHS tests are much more severe than government safety standards mandate, as small-car proponents often note. The Smart Fortwo meets all U.S. government crash-test standards, including a five-star side-crash rating, notes Dave Schembri, the president of Smart USA. It also earned the highest scores for front- and side-crash worthiness from the IIHS itself.

As for the pressure that Smart may or may not have been brought to bear on Forbes, that may or may not have involved advertising, what did you expect? The truth about cars?

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38 Comments on “Editorial: How Forbes Spiked smart Safety Slam...”


  • avatar

    Sorry guys. Don’t know why the “allow comments” boxes weren’t automatically ticked. I’ll keep an eye on future posts’ comments and ping our new techie, Ben.

    Comments now open.

  • avatar
    carlisimo

    Death rate studies don’t support the correlation between safety and mass, unless you only look at multi-vehicle fatal accidents.

    The guy may have a point regarding the smart, but not beyond it.

  • avatar
    reclusive_in_nature

    If you want to buy a deathtrap because it’s ‘smart’ or ‘green’ that’s fine with me. So long as you’re not trying to influence your government officials into forcing everyone into driving cars like this you can play automotive roulette all you want. Just don’t bitch and whine about the legality of larger vehicles on the road when you get pinned beneath one.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Isn’t Smart owned by Mercedes? Doesn’t Mercedes run a lot of ads in Forbes?

    Hmmmm….

    I think the Smart is radically inappropriate for American driving unless you’re talking someplace like New York or Boston, which are as close to clogged, ancient European cities as it gets on this side of the pond.

    In a place like Rome or London, where you probably won’t be able to hit anything bigger than a Corolla, Smarts make more sense. However, I cannot imagine driving one of these things in a typical American suburb, which is chockablock with behemoth SUVs, pickups and minivans.

    Can you imagine one of these things going up against an Escalade?

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    Carlisimo,
    But multi car accidents are the only ones anyone cares about. Everyone is such a good driver, that unless someone else runs into them, they certainly will not be in a wreck.

    :)

  • avatar
    Cougar Red

    DumbCar.

  • avatar
    Demetri

    “As you might expect, the small/lightweight cars crash tested by the IIHS fared badly under Dulberger’s SCORE system.”

    Actually the Fit did well. It scores better than a Chrysler 300 on his system, and is only 10 points off from being in the top 8% of vehicles. He also says that mass only makes a big difference in head on collisions (which are uncommon and the most avoidable).

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    Physics appears to be completely optional in the US education system? Did the Creationists get to that too?

  • avatar
    p00ch

    Cougar Red :

    DumbCar.

    Why? If you live in a densely packed urban area, these tests mean squat – your chances of being in such a collision are negligible. It’s all about the context and where you spend your time driving.

  • avatar
    Diewaldo

    Sorry guys, but the whole smart theme isn’t really going anywhere. The car is on the market over here in Germany for quite some years and I am not aware that there is a statiscally significant higher number of deaths attached to this car.

    Normally these cars are driven in an urban European environment, where the topspeed is 30 mph at max, but usually even much less. I don’t see them on the Autobahn very often, as they also have a limiter for topspeed.

    I agree that the car has a deficit on mass, which is especially evident at higher speeds, but normally it is driven around in an environment where it’s only competitor in means of parking space is a Vespa. And you know … it is much safer that a Vespa.

    Also it is a typical 2nd or 3rd car. Nobody whith a sane mind uses it for traveling larger distances.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    Sorry

  • avatar
    zaitcev

    Do you remember the lawsuit Suzuki brought against Consumer Reports? The difference this time is, CR had much deeper pockets than some easily silenced blogger. Can I say SLAPP.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    carlisimo : “Death rate studies don’t support the correlation between safety and mass, unless you only look at multi-vehicle fatal accidents.”

    Well, aren’t multi-vehicle accidents what we are talking about here?

    Check out the IIHS data report from 1998:

    http://www.iihs.org/news/1998/iihs_news_021098.pdf

    “The basic findings reinforce what’s long been known about vehicle size and occupant death rates. As vehicle weight decreases, the number of occupants killed in crashes increases.”

    That study was released 11 years ago, and not much has changed.

    “These results reflect both single- and two-vehicle crashes, and the latter account for 48 percent of all car occupant deaths, 35 percent of all pickup occupant deaths, and 29 percent of all utility vehicle deaths.”

    So, 48% of the people who die in car crashes do so when involved in a multi-vehicle collision. Hardly something which can be ignored.

    I’m surprised there is still much of a debate about this basic point. Two equally well engineered and built vehicles, one larger and heavier than the other, entail different probabilities of their occupants being injured or killed in a crash. The bigger one (again, assuming equally good engineering) will have a lower death and injury rate than the smaller one. Does anyone really believe that the Mercedes S-class driver is as likely to get killed on the roads as the Smart ForTwo driver? Really?

    About ten times as many Americans are killed on the roads every year as were killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    @PeteMoran:

    I am a creationist (old earth) and a mechanical engineer. Since you brought up creationists, I’ll assume you’re referring to the ones who believe the Great Engineer is tricking us through science. I don’t.

    ****

    As for the smart, the fluff about its relative safety doesn’t really matter to me. The choice of vehicle is a measure of your personal risk aversity. For some, a motorcycle is OK; for others, only a Volvo will do.

    What-if comparisons of Escalades vs. smartfortwo are purely theoretical if they never happen. Nobody would buy a smartfortwo if they planned to hit an SUV.

    I’ve driven small 4-cylinder cars for almost 30 years, having totalled two of them in terrible collisions – both my fault. The best thing you can do is wear a seatbelt and drive defensively. If your number’s up, an Escalade won’t save you, either.

  • avatar
    Ronman

    what about the EuroNCAP rating system? is it any better than what is used by the US government and IIHS?

    NCAP just got a revamped evaluation technique that simulates situations closer to everyday tragic accidents, plus it also judges driver aids.

    but in any case, accidents I’ve seen on the road that induce fatalities rarely look like what you see in a crash test.

    when cars are tested at 50mph, the passengers might survive, but anything over that is a wild card bet.

    i once saw a peugeot 308, suposedly 5 star stuck under a truck flatbed. now the car was shoved all the way to the back seats with the roof peeled off like a sardine can… not sure how fast he was going. but I’m sure engineers at Peugeot didn’t count for that. because if they did count for every .01% of an accident case, we’d all be driving around with panzers and Ai Abrahms tanks… without the ammo of course…

    car safety has come an extremely long way, but to go out and say that small cars are plainly dangerous is dumber than the Smart is smart, because after all, when people buy their cars, the sales agents have to point out the safety rating and what they mean. Obviously a half wit should understand that a 5 star smart will not behave the same as a 5 star Volvo XC90 when they hit a wall…. physics always wins. unless you are driving a tank, but then your inner organs would probably fail as well as they crash against your ribcage…….

  • avatar
    Nutella

    More spin coming from America :-)

    Why isn’t the misleading “informed for life” type of organizations recognizing that the profile of the drivers is possibly the only variable that matters in determining your safety.
    18 years old males drive like idiots most of the time and that’s why sport coupes are not safe and that’s the Toyota Avalon/Buick/Volvo/Saab is safe.

    Defensive driving contributes more to safety than
    crash tests. I ride motorcycles and tiny fuel efficient cars and I’m extremely safe so are the thousands of Japanese and Europeans doing so.
    Stay away from idiots on the road and you’ll be fine.Drive less.Be relaxed and pay attention. Have your headlights on etc….

    Oh but it wouln’t make a good headline wouln’t it ?

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    Nutella:
    Defensive driving contributes more to safety than
    crash tests…

    +1. Everything you said rings true.

    But given that almost anyone with a pulse can get a license, is it any wonder there’s an arms race to drive the heaviest vehicles?

    The IIHS is their own worst enemy. Many of their the safety ideas are tough to engineer into smaller vehicles. The costs and weights of smaller cars are increased disproportionately, IMO.

    And props to InformedForLife.org. While gadfly-ish, IIHS and NHTSA need the occasional poke in the eye.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    Why isn’t the misleading “informed for life” type of organizations recognizing that the profile of the drivers is possibly the only variable that matters in determining your safety.

    My profile, or the other guys?

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    Looking at Dulberger’s list, we see that for example the 2009 Lexus LS is too unsafe to be recommended.

    Same for the 2007 E-Class Mercedes Wagon.

    This is contrary to just about every crash test result, and every statistic I can think of.

    Could it be that Dulberger is a renegade who just likes to compile his own lists using relatively exotic criteria?

    Whom to believe? Major testing organizations subject to peer-group review like Euro-NCAP or NHTSA, or one engineer with a computer?

    If it’s the latter, then I’ve got some interesting conspiracy news about 9/11 for you.

  • avatar
    DweezilSFV

    @Pete Moran: you can bet “creationists” had nothing to do with dumbing down school curriculum with mainstreaming the mentally handicapped, fuzzy math, political correctness,”whole language” reading instruction instead of phonics, invented spelling, self esteem programs over achievement, environmental propaganda as science, Multiculturalism instead of American History and social promotions instead of failing brats that won’t do the work or need extra help or any of the other boneheaded ideas the so called “education professionals” have come up with to put the education system into the sorry mess it’s in today. They don’t get “physics” because some kids may actually be too dumb to get it, so rather than “embarass them” or “hurt their self esteem”, they simply dumb it down or eliminate it.

    50% drop out rate in LA Public Schools and you won’t find a creationist for miles around. Stop it.

    Mayor Hahn’s own study showed that a majority of people under 30 in the LA workforce are illiterate in Spanish and English. So much for bi-lingual education, another great experiment foisted on us by the educated dunces running this school system.

    A rat hole. By law CA cuts off 40% of it’s entire budget for “education”. The LAUSD budget is larger than the entire city of LA’s to fund fire, police,etc etc etc.There’s plenty of money to burn for this effed up school system we have right here. And 40 years of experimentation by our so called “educated” elite to show when the decay started in.

    The “creationists” really screwed up DC schools didn’t they? $14,000 per student and dismal results. Gotta love it. But those darn backward religious nuts, hey, aren’t they something?

    Amazing so many public school teachers [and government drones who insist that everyone else’s children be subjected to public schools]put their own children in private ones.

  • avatar
    tom

    I think there’s a lot of hate here and people need to make things up in order to justify. But please, just look at it as unbiased as you can.

    Personally, I’m not a big fan of the Smart, but I can see its purpose, and I’m certainly not bashing it for it’s lack of safety when this is simply wrong.

    Crash tests are there to evaluate the safety of a car based on tests that are as close to real life as possible. One can argue about how close to real life they are, however the point we’re at now is the result of decades of scientific testing. If the Smart gets high grades in these tests, then the logical thing is to conclude that it’s actually a safe car.

    Full frontal collisions are obviously a problem when you’re in a very light vehicle, but these crashes rarely ever happen. You could just as well crash any car into a solid brick wall at 60 mph and conclude that nothing short of a tank is safe. These types of accidents might be deadly, but they also hardly ever happen. If your smart is involved in a frontal crash, then the cars only need to be shifted by a foot and the smart will spin off.

    Ultimately, life is dangerous and no car will ever be safe from a Boeing 747 falling on its roof. But it’s about the odds. I don’t have real life statistics, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see that you’re more likely to die in a Ford Explorer or a Suburban than you are in a Smart.

  • avatar
    ghillie

    Interesting variety of passionately held views. Seems to me a few misunderstandings too.

    Ronman :
    Obviously a half wit should understand that a 5 star smart will not behave the same as a 5 star Volvo XC90 when they hit a wall…. physics always wins.

    Assuming that by “physics always wins”, you mean the Volvo is a better place to be – that doesn’t necessarily follow if you “hit a wall” front on. I ain’t no engineer or physicist, but even a half wit like me can see that the mass of your Volvo (a fair chunk of which is behind you) is trying to crush the front of the car (and you) into the wall. In that case mass is not your friend. The Volvo may need every bit of extra crush space its got compared with the Smart.

    John Horner :
    “These results reflect both single- and two-vehicle crashes, and the latter account for 48 percent of all car occupant deaths, 35 percent of all pickup occupant deaths, and 29 percent of all utility vehicle deaths.”

    So, 48% of the people who die in car crashes do so when involved in a multi-vehicle collision. Hardly something which can be ignored.

    I ain’t no statistician either, but aren’t those figures just as supportive of a an argument that pickups and utilities are no more safe than passenger cars in two-vehicle crashes and less safe than passenger cars in other accidents? Wouldn’t you would need to know total deaths for each type of vehicle adjusted for vehicle numbers, average distance travelled, average number of occupants and maybe a lot of other variables to get a true “apples to apples” comparison between different vehicle types?

    I’m surprised there is still much of a debate about this basic point. Two equally well engineered and built vehicles, one larger and heavier than the other, entail different probabilities of their occupants being injured or killed in a crash. The bigger one (again, assuming equally good engineering) will have a lower death and injury rate than the smaller one. Does anyone really believe that the Mercedes S-class driver is as likely to get killed on the roads as the Smart ForTwo driver? Really?

    Well it seems right…. especially if you’re talking about a crash between a Smart and an S Class. But what if there were only Smarts on the road? Would you be more likely to be injured or killed in a crash between two Smarts or two S Classes? Much more mass to handle with the two S Classes. But it’s not just the mass is it – there’s the amount of free space around each occupant, more space for crush zones in the bigger car and probably other things too.

    I’m sure a lot a people feel safer in SUV’s and other big cars – isn’t that one reason people buy them? But as other posters have pointed out, if everyone bought cars on that basis you may end up with an automobile “arms race”. And if everyone had big cars then there would be no small cars to be worse off in two-car crashes. Being safer in a big car or truck seems to work only by shifting some of your risk of injury or death onto someone else (in a smaller car). And because bigger cars probably take longer to stop and are less manoeuvrable (that pesky mass again) risk is not just shifted but the total risk (yours and theirs) is greater than with two small cars. So if a big car or SUV is materially safer only because other people drive small cars then is choosing a big car or SUV because it’s “safer” the “up yours” school of road safety? – unless you’re doing it to protect yourself against that other idiot in a big car. Hmmm….. isn’t that what laws for the common good are for – in circumstances where acting in rational self interest is to the detriment of all?

    About ten times as many Americans are killed on the roads every year as were killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

    Not to mention the not dead but badly/permanently injured. Do they still call it the “carnage” on our roads? I wonder what the annual cost of road trauma is?

  • avatar
    Kurt.

    I have been following this and the other thread on the same subject and I don’t think the problem lies with smart, small cars, or application of physics. The problem lies in the display of data. Let me explain…

    Using the smart as the example, we have been led to believe that the smart receives 5 stars for five-star side-crash rating, 4 stars for drivers front, 3 stars for passengers front. But what does that mean? How does that compare to my 1981 Corvette? Will I survive? It answers none of these questions. Or how about these? Is a 5 star rating the same between car classes? Does that include trucks? My point is, star ratings are not an accurate assessment as they hold little or no real meaning.

    Now if most people believe the marketing that smarts are smart and parks their SUV, hypermiles, drives safely and sensibly in micro cars and saves the planet – when you do finally have an accident, it might be more likely to be with another micro car and therefore you might survive it. The odds of crashing into and SUV and being removed from the remains in pieces would have greatly diminished.

    Until then, we need to be able to assess our safety relitive to the competition. We need a score but not an overall score since we need to make up our own mind up whether we wish to risk a lower frontal impact from a more common side impact. More over we need to be able to compare vehicles equally. I think the http://www.informedforlife.org site provides that. Too bad they don’t have ratings for all cars going back to the beginnings of the crasah tests.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    As long as these matchbox cars are not mandated by government fiat I’m ok with someone else buying them. I feel safer in my car.

  • avatar
    sawaba

    Longest. Sentence. Ever.

    Maybe it is just me, but I had to read this 5 times before I could comprehend this thing. This was the iDrive of sentences.

    The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently performed a series of crash tests
    to garner widespread MSM coverage to justify their enormous operating budget to the insurance companies that pay for the “don’t tell anyone we’re not from the government” organization’s existence—I mean demonstrate the heretofore unimaginable fact that small/lightweight cars get the snot kicked out of them when they collide front-to-front with medium size cars, despite the fact that the small cars involved received the IIHS’ best possible frontal crash ratings.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    I like Smart cars. They are cool looking, do very well in the city. I would not buy one, but I would keep the cabrio if someone gave it to me.

    As for safety, apparantly there have been fewer deaths around cars lately – tho, the number is around 34,000 deaths a year on the road last year. Thats a 9-11 every month or so. Not very promising numbers. Think of another product that when used properly causes such death and destruction.

    As for how this matters, I dont know. Its kinda like figuring what diet to follow. No fat, all fat, no carbs, all carbs. All the dogmatism,the drama, lots of orthodox beleivers out there. Geeze. I have found the best diet is to eat less than you do now, and get a little exercise. Problem solved.

    The same with cars. Staying out of them is the best way to avoid an accident. If you have to drive, do so cautiously. See? Simple.

  • avatar
    wsn

    carlisimo :
    April 15th, 2009 at 10:09 pm

    Death rate studies don’t support the correlation between safety and mass, unless you only look at multi-vehicle fatal accidents.

    —————————————-

    That’s false.

    Larger cars (i.e. Avalon) have substantially lower death rates than smaller cars (i.e. Aveo). That’s been proven.

    It’s trucks/SUVs that have higher CoG and different demographic also have higher death rate. But those should be considered a different category.

    If you limit the scope to just passenger cars, larger is safer. (Not surprising, since larger is also more expensive.)

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    Most certainly, among some percentage of the “bigger is safer” and the “I feel safer in a big vehicle” crowd, there is an element of not necessarily rational fear and insecurity. For others it is simply a good rationale for their preference.
    At 1.6 deaths per million miles traveled, I did the math a few years ago, and at the mileage I drive, somewhere less than 15,000 per year, it figured out to be about 500 years before my number came up.
    In light of that , I would feel entirely comfortable in a Smart. I just would never buy one. Given their mediocrity, I would consider one for maybe about $4000 new.

  • avatar
    chuckR

    Thomas Wenzel and Marc Ross have looked at US accident data for several years. They most recently published in American Scientist magazine in March/April 2008. Its online and accessible – don’t let the tree huggerish title put you off. They looked at driver fatalities in two vehicle circumstances – because there’s always a driver, or a least somebody behind the wheel. Their conclusions are based on real world, driven as they are driven, not as they ought be driven, statistics. Least fatals – minivans (excepting luxury imports). Next best rating – well engineered midsize sedans (Taurus/Camry size). Worst, by far, one ton pick’em ups. Full size SUVs not as quite as good as the sedans. My hunch, safest is the Yukaburbalade class, but only if you can discipline yourself to drive 10mph slower than the sedans. Too bad I can’t do that.

  • avatar
    Spike_in_Irvine

    “These results reflect both single- and two-vehicle crashes, and the latter account for 48 percent of all car occupant deaths, 35 percent of all pickup occupant deaths, and 29 percent of all utility vehicle deaths.”

    My intial reaction to these numbers strayed a little from the author’s intention which was to say that the number of multi-vehicle crashes is significant.

    What it says to me, and I’m no statistician, is that a large number of pickups and an even larger number of SUVs have their fatal accidents without hitting anybody at all. Are they rolling or hitting trees and walls or just spontaneously exploding? Surely this points to them being quite dangerous.

  • avatar
    CarPerson

    Six inches vs. six feet of crumple zone.

    Does that help scare up come critical thinking when reading drivel from the Smart’s apologists?

  • avatar
    Lokki

    Some of you science and safety guys help me out here, but my thought on the Smart has been that they say that this safety zone is basically uncrushable….

    Ok, accepting that, all the energy of a crash has to go somewhere…. I’m thinking that if you hit a wall, you’d better hope your airbag really absorbs a ton of energy (or whatever you weigh at 5 g’s) and if you hit an SUV, you’re going to bounce like a ping pong ball.

    Since Physics involved math, I skipped class, but I’ve been hit by a few apples over the years.

    What have I got wrong here?

  • avatar
    mattdaddy

    I’ve been reading TTAC for about as long as I’ve owned my 2005 smart (diesel, pre-US launch). It took this article to make me register and comment.

    What most people miss when discussing the fortwo, either on it’s own but in particular to competition with 2 extra seats (Yaris especially), are the active safety features of the car. The fortwo has more alphabet soup at it’s disposal than most cars on the road. Electronic Stability Program (fun-police), Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Traction Control, Seat Belt Tensioners, and more. All things designed to help the driver’s reaction to avoid an accident. These things do not show up when hurling a car into a wall or larger car.

    Another factor is the reduced speed that most smart drivers use on major roadways. I commute 65 km each way on a major highway. Instead of the 125 km/h I used to drive at, I now travel at 110 km/h in the right lane. I very rarely encounter an emergency maneuver at that speed, and in that lane. The smart also requires a higher level of driver interaction. It does not coast along like a big Caddy. There are constant steering corrections and semi-manual gear changes. You feel engaged and alert when driving the car outside of it’s city-car element (funny title since it’s a great highway car).

    Most people who ask me about safety are concerned about me driving the car among transport trucks. I doubt they drive something that could also stand up to that type of accident. We’re not all smug ‘smart’ & ‘green’ types. Some of us just want a car that is sized to the type of daily commute and cargo we carry (a laptop). The stereotypes are kinda lame if you actually know the community of owners. Most of us are car loving people who are very active online and at club meets. Consider dropping the flames, unless they make you feel more adequate (my license plate is UCOMPNS8).

  • avatar
    p00ch

    I’m thinking of importing a 2CV from France. I like risk but this car makes the Smart seem like a tank…

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    chuckR:
    My hunch, safest is the Yukaburbalade class, but only if you can discipline yourself to drive 10mph slower than the sedans. Too bad I can’t do that.

    My hunch is that if you can discipline yourself to take it easy on curves during poor road conditions, you’ll be fine.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    Lokki,

    You are precisely correct. Hard works great up to a point, and then the force simply cannot be born by the body. The trick is, that at the speeds we are talking about, the survivability in much larger cars with crumple zones isn’t really that much better. It IS better, but it’s not a sure thing. If you compare the Smart to many other small cars with more crumple space, it can outperform against many of them.

    We haven’t been doing the hard composite solution very long, and it may have some good possibilities.

    ihatetrees,
    You are also correct. I used to be tempted to short stop idiots in cars with poor brakes when they would tailgate my BMW (a 328 with the sport package). What were they thinking? Just looking at the tires they should have known better. Well, they weren’t thinking. If most drivers had any judgement whatsoever, we would all be much better off. I hardly get in the passing lane with my Landcruiser, so it’s not such a problem anymore.

    They should put the braking stats on the cars next to the epa mileage in the showroom. Then, when you buy a truck or minivan, they should make you sign a piece of paper saying that by driving this vehicle, you give up your right to ever be in a hurry.

  • avatar
    T2

    -ghillie : great post.

    When the Chrysler liquidation season ends and the Tea Party anti-bailout protests fizzle, perhaps then Robert can get something going on The Truth About Car Insurance.

    I see a real problem when a vehicle which has depreciated to 20% of its original value costs close to $1000 to insure.

    This could be the reason that there is a preponderance of heavier vehicles like SUVs passenger vans and pickups which seem to ferry just a single occupant for 95% of the time. More people might consider owning a second smaller vehicle as an option if the insurance premium wasn’t so high.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Some of you science and safety guys help me out here, but my thought on the Smart has been that they say that this safety zone is basically uncrushable….

    Ok, accepting that, all the energy of a crash has to go somewhere…. I’m thinking that if you hit a wall, you’d better hope your airbag really absorbs a ton of energy (or whatever you weigh at 5 g’s) and if you hit an SUV, you’re going to bounce like a ping pong ball.…

    The theory of the smart’s really rigid structure is that it won’t deform enough to allow the passenger cell to be compromised too much. They have said that they are using the other vehicle’s crumple zone to absorb the crash energy, which, if you look at multi car crash footage, you will see the smart doing just that. However, what about striking a fixed object? Now, that super stiff structure has limited ability to allow the occupant to decelerate slowly enough to survive.

    The problem with all this crash data is that it is too easy to pick and choose what information will support your opinion. Think about mass this way. Kinetic energy is mass time velocity squared. The speed (velocity) very quickly becomes the dominant player because its contribution grows with the square of the speed. So why does mass get so much credit? Because all that crash energy has to be dissipated. That means the ability to absorb and deflect the energy away from the occupant becomes the issue when trying to live through a crash. Larger vehicles offer easier methods to dissipate that energy. To do so in a smaller car requires much more design effort (and cost) to manage that crash energy. So, with large vehicles you get that crash protection cheaply via more crush space, rather than by serious engineering that would required to manage it well in a smaller car. Check out this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k3ygYUYia9I

    In this video, a 15 year old Volvo is humbled by a modern small car in a 40 MPH offset crash.

    Keep in mind that crash tests only take into account how vehicles will perform in a controlled environment. Driver behavior is fully eliminated. Real world data is totally influenced by driver behavior, and that is something that we can’t engineer out of a car. We can only try to mange it. Like it or not, younger drivers take more risks, and any vehicle they choose is going to be dragged down in real world crash data. 2 door Shadows rolled at four times the rate of 4 door Shadows, which appealed to a much older age group. More costly vehicles seem to do better, but, again, is this due to added safety features, size, or the older, more affluent owners? All these factor influence how different vehicles perform out there.
    About 8 years ago, somebody from NHSTA had suggested the best way to save more lives was to increase the weight of vehicles by a couple of hundred pounds. I don’t know what planet he came from, but vehicles have been growing by way more than that over the last 20 years. What he should have said was that the disparity in size and heights are creating a hazardous condition, instead of focusing just on weight.

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