Microcars and Minicars: Crash Tests Show Occupant Safety Unduly Compromised

Occupants of smaller cars are at increased risk in all kinds of crashes, not just ones with heavier vehicles, according to The Insurance Institute For Highway Safety. Almost half of all crash deaths in minicars occur in single-vehicle crashes. Even if all cars became smaller and lighter, the result would be to afford less occupant protection fleetwide in single-vehicle crashes. The death rate per million 1-3-year-old minis in single-vehicle crashes during 2007 was 35 compared with 11 per million for very large cars. Even in midsize cars, the death rate in single-vehicle crashes was 17 percent lower than in minicars.

The addition of safety features, such as airbags, advanced belts, electronic stability control, and other features, to the smallest cars in recent years reduces injury risk, but they’ve been added to cars of all sizes. Thus the smallest cars still don’t match the bigger cars in terms of occupant protection. The lower death rate in larger cars involved in single-vehicle accidents is because many objects that vehicles hit aren’t solid, and vehicles that are big and heavy have a better chance of moving or deforming the objects they strike. This dissipates some of the energy of the impact.

The Insurance Institute For Highway Safety conducted three front-to-front crash tests, each involving a microcar or minicar into a midsize model from the same manufacturer. The match-ups were: Honda Accord versus Fit: Mercedes C class versus Smart Fortwo: and Toyota Camry versus Yaris. The tests show how extra vehicle size and weight enhance occupant protection in collisions.

In a collision involving two vehicles that differ in size and weight, the people in the smaller, lighter vehicle will be at a disadvantage. The bigger, heavier vehicle will push the smaller, lighter one backward during the impact. This means there will be less force on the occupants of the heavier vehicle and more on the people in the lighter vehicle. Greater force means greater risk, so the likelihood of injury goes up in the smaller, lighter vehicle.

Yet another claim is that minicars are easier to maneuver, so their drivers can avoid crashes in the first place. Insurance claims experience says otherwise. The frequency of claims filed for crash damage is higher for mini 4-door cars than for midsize ones.

The lawyers at Levine & Slavit have decades of experience handling personal injury claims including those involving auto accidents. For over 50 years spanning 3 generations, we have obtained results for satisfied clients. We have offices in Manhattan and Long Island, handling cases in New York City, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and surrounding areas.

If you or someone close to you has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, contact the personal injury lawyers at Levine & Slavit for their help. To learn more, watch our videos.

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