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Old 04-20-2008, 06:42 PM   #1
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Fuel Economy and Crash Safety Can Conflict

Nothing new but definitely interesting in light of CAFE...

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Fuel Economy and Crash Safety Can Conflict
By Scott Doggett, Contributor

Revisiting and reaffirming the laws of physics, the most recent U.S. automobile fatality data shows that people involved in multiple-vehicle crashes are than twice as likely to die if they are in a car rather than an SUV.

Statistically, occupants of the smallest cars – those under 2,500 pounds – are more than 30 percent more likely to die in multiple-vehicle accidents than are people traveling in midsize cars. And they are more than twice as likely to die as are people traveling in large cars, according to data collected by the U.S. Department of Transportation and posted online by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

"People have to understand that there is a public-health consequence to consumers moving to very small cars," IIHS spokesman Russ Rader told Green Car Advisor Thursday. "Congress mandated tougher fuel-economy requirements, but they didn't repeal the laws of physics."

Congress last year mandated a nearly 30 percent increase in the corporate average fuel economy of automakers by 2020, and automakers increasingly are offering lightweight small cars to help them comply with the CAFE mandate. Consumer interest in minicars also has risen with fuel prices.

Several automakers, including Honda and Smart, have shown in crash tests that occupants of their small cars can survive crashes with much larger vehicles. But Rader warns that there will always be a tradeoff in crash survivability for fuel economy – when shifting from a large vehicle into a smaller one. And he noted that little difference exists between the fuel efficiency of minicars and some mid-size cars equipped with four-cylinder engines.

"You don't need all the horsepower that automakers put in modern cars. We did without all this horsepower for a long time – until the horsepower race began the last 10 years or so," he said, suggesting that car shoppers interested in larger cars can obtain improved fuel economy by eschewing V8 and V6 engines.

Rader noted that the 2008 Honda Accord, Chevrolet Malibu, Subaru Legacy and Saturn Aura – all moderately priced midsize vehicles – did well in the Arlington, Va.-based insurance institute's front- and side-impact tests and are available with four-cylinder engines that offer good fuel economy.

Consumers should not compare crash test ratings across weight classes; a minicar with a good frontal-impact rating is not necessarily as safe as a midsize car with the same rating.

That's because in frontal crash tests, the amount of force striking the barrier differs with the weight of vehicle, a heavy car or truck packing a much greater punch than a lightweight vehicle.

So, while several of the minicars recently tested by the institute received "good" ratings – the highest it awards -- that means they are only safer than other small cars with a lower ratings, Rader said.

Posted by John Apr 17, 2008 9:26 pm
http://blogs.edmunds.com/.eea6738
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Old 04-20-2008, 07:56 PM   #2
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That's because in frontal crash tests, the amount of force striking the barrier differs with the weight of vehicle, a heavy car or truck packing a much greater punch than a lightweight vehicle.

So, while several of the minicars recently tested by the institute received "good" ratings – the highest it awards -- that means they are only safer than other small cars with a lower ratings, Rader said.

About time somebody published this idea!!

"The smart car has a good crash test rating!"
"Not quite."
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Old 04-20-2008, 08:23 PM   #3
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A 2000 lb car will accelerate (well, decelerate) 2 times faster in an impact than a 4000 lb car in a crash with the same vehicle. Force = mass x acceleration. Plus, smaller and lighter vehicles can't absorb impact energy as well as bigger ones can. Try and find a crumple zone in a smartcar, when you do, tell me because I haven't found them yet
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