Whether it’s a schoolyard clash or a highway crash, the larger combatant often comes out on top. Numerous studies show that in collisions between vehicles of different sizes, occupants of the small car are more likely to be a fatality than their counterparts in the hefty pick-up. And while smaller vehicles may save on fuel, it appears that bigger is better for saving lives. But how can that be? What about all the crash tests touting Honda Civics and Toyota Corollas for their stellar safety records?
Flawed Crash Tests
The tests weren’t wrong, they were just incomplete. They assumed that your small or mid-sized economy car was colliding with a car of similar stature. Pitted against an SUV or one of those over-sized pickups, however, and it’s a case of David vs. Goliath without the happy ending. That’s because trucks and vans weigh more and ride higher than most cars, allowing them to crush their smaller counterparts like an elephant flattens a flea.
“When it comes to vehicle size and weight in a collision, size matters,” said Sergeant Theuser, a collision reconstructionist with the major collisions investigation unit of the Edmonton Police Service since 2003.
It’s all about energy distribution and change of velocity over time, or what the sergeant calls “jerk”.
“The more mass a vehicle has, the more it will influence the smaller car. In a collision, the vehicle with less mass experiences more jerk.”
In essence, it’s like the flea hitting the windshield. Both are affected, but the flea comes out worse.
When it comes to vehicle size and weight in a collision, size matter- Sergeant Theuser
Before you rush out and buy his and hers Hummers though, consider a few points:
- A big vehicle won’t protect you against another big vehicle, so if everyone starts upsizing, it just means a lot more fuel consumption without more safety.
- People in larger vehicles tend to be overconfident about their safety and drive more carelessly. It’s why Sergeant Theuser sees a lot more single vehicle rollovers with bigger cars.
- Statistics can be misleading. There are a lot of studies out there on both sides of the issue, but Theuser points to his experience this year. Of the 29 collision fatalities thus far, over half involved either pedestrians or motorcycles. Buying a bigger vehicle, therefore, may be guarding against a risk that’s pretty remote.
Buy the car or truck that makes the most sense for you and fits your needs and personality
Be safe and sensible
Ultimately, Sergeant Theuser advises you to buy the car or truck that makes the most sense for you and fits your needs and personality; then make it as safe as you can.
Oh, and don’t forget to drive defensively, obey the speed limit and have proper insurance just in case.
Of course, some will keep buying those bigger vehicles to ensure “success” in a collision. But before you get armed to the teeth with a monster truck, it might pay to arm yourself with all the facts. In any of life’s battles, a win still beats a loss, but a “win-win” is even better.