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IIHS Crash Tests Reveal that Bigger and Heavier Motor Vehicles Exhibit Greater Occupant Protection During Auto Collisions

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, extra vehicle weight and size add up to more occupant protection during auto collisions. This means that people who choose to buy smaller cars because they are more economical in terms of price and gas usage could be compromising personal safety.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety conducted three front-to-front crash tests. A minicar or microcar and a midsize vehicle from the same automaker were used for each test. Pairs used were 2009 models from Honda, Daimler, and Toyota—all auto brands with minis and micros that received good frontal crashworthiness ratings.
While the Smart Fortwo, the Honda Fit, and the Toyota Yaris performed well in the frontal offset barrier test, they all performed poorly during frontal collisions with midsize cars—in these instances, the Mercedes Class C, the Honda Accord, and the Toyota Camry. During all three tests, the smaller cars didn’t do as well as the midsized vehicles, with dummies in the smaller vehicles exhibiting a greater likelihood of injury.
The greater the difference in weight between the two vehicles, the higher the risk of injury for the occupants of the smaller cars. The longer the vehicle size, including the length of distance from the front of the motor vehicle to the compartment where occupants would be seated, the lower the force of impact on the people in the longer vehicle.
According to 2007 crash statistics, the fatality rate for 1- to 3-year-old minicars during multi-vehicle collisions is nearly two times higher than the fatality rate for bigger cars. For midsized cars, the death rate during single-vehicle collisions was 17% lower than for minicars.
Nearly 50% of all crash fatalities during single vehicle collisions occurred in minicars. While there is the claim that minicars are easier to drive, which can reportedly help drivers avoid getting involved in an auto accident, insurance data reveals otherwise, with four times more crash damage claims filed for mini-4-door vehicles than for midsize cars.
There are, of course, people who believe that small cars and mini cars are as safe as their bigger counterparts. And while these smaller vehicles now have more safety features, such as airbags and electronic stability control, bigger cars still have the greater advantage when it comes to occupant protection and safety.
The IIHS has brought up the interesting point that establishing lower speed limits will save gas and improve safety. In 1974, thousands of barrels of fuel, as well as thousands of lives were saved when the country had a national maximum speed limit of 55 mph. Highway fatalities dropped 20% from 55,511 in 1973 to 46,402 in 1974.
Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death in the United States. While auto accidents do happen because of driver error or negligence, there are steps that auto manufacturers can take to maximize occupant safety and save lives.
Failure to manufacture or design vehicles that will keep passengers and drivers safe can be grounds for an automotive products liability lawsuit if the car maker could have or should have done more to make the vehicle involved in a car accident safer so that injuries or deaths could have been prevented.
New crash tests demonstrate the influence of vehicle size and weight on safety in crashes; results are relevant to fuel economy policies, IIHS.org, April 14, 2009
Car Size and Weight are Crucial, Status Report (PDF)
Related Web Resources:
1974: New speed limit to curb fuel use, BBC
Cap U.S. Speed Limit At 55 Mph To Save Gas, CBS, July 7, 2008

Contact Gilbert & Ollanik, PC today for a free consultation with one our experienced auto products liability lawyers.

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