Everyone hates a car accident. It’s nerve-racking, car-wrecking, and wallet-smashing all in one go. To top it all off, a collision can be a stress on your budget, too. However, the one thing to keep in perspective is safety. If no one was hurt, your poor vehicle did its job. So how do you ensure that the car you choose next keeps you and your family safe on the road?
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Are Bigger or Smaller Cars Safer?
Most people think that bigger cars are significantly safer than smaller cars, but technology has shrunk the gap between the sizes to focus more on the overall safety of newer cars. Nonetheless, here are the factors to keep in mind when it comes to car size safety:
Newer Cars Are Safest (Regardless of Size)
Modern cars have more safety features that minimize injury and risk of death. You can add many features for a price, but these are some of the standard ones:
- Side, rear, side-curtain, and front airbags are available in even the most economical new car.
- Electronic stability control, which is a feature that stabilizes your car in the event it spins out of control and minimizes rollovers, is no longer only available in luxury cars; it is available in all vehicles since 2012.
- Back up sensors and backup cameras help to prevent rear-end collisions. This feature will be available to all new cars in late spring of 2018.
- Blind spot warning is a feature that uses a camera or sensor to let the driver know if there is a vehicle in the lane they want to change into.
Weight and Size
In the case of cars, size is relevant. Bigger cars are heavier and therefore can absorb the force of an impact more efficiently than a smaller car. Higher weight minimizes damage (and thus risk). The larger hoods in bigger vehicles have the advantage in head-on collisions because it has a has a more significant crumple zone. The crumple zone, also known as the crush zone, is the area in front of the vehicle that absorbs most of the impact in a front-end accident.
Keep in mind that the trade for the mass of a more substantial vehicle is that is used more gas to get from place to place.
As the weight of the car increases so does its momentum, which means the car requires more time to slow down. In a collision of with a smaller vehicle, the energy of the bigger car will be transferred to the smaller car causing it more damage as well as send it flying. The force of the impact is likely to cause injury to the passenger in the sedan type of car.
Smaller cars have a much higher risk when entering into a collision with a larger car. Big cars push smaller cars more, which increases the risk of injury such as whiplash. Here’s how:
As the weight of the car increases, so does its momentum, which means the car requires more time to slow down. In a collision with a smaller vehicle, the energy of the bigger car will be transferred to the smaller car, causing it more damage and potentially sending it into another lane. The force of the impact is likely to cause injury to the passenger in the smaller car.
Some larger vehicles may be more at risk for rollovers accidents because they have a higher center of gravity. Smaller cars, in general, have a lower center of gravity, which keeps them from rolling over in a collision. However, cars that are lower to the ground have a higher risk of sliding underneath another vehicle.
In fact, underride crashes involving a small car and a semi-truck is the deadliest type of crash. Here’s why you should be more concerned about underride collisions than rollovers:
- Rollovers are also deadly but do not happen often. They are only 1% of all crashes but account for approximately 33% of deaths according to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS).
- While most semi trucks are required to have underride guards to prevent cars from sliding underneath in a crash, the IIHS has found that many of these guards are not strong enough to completely prevent this from happening. Underride collision kills nearly 200 people per year.
What Is the Safest Type of Vehicle?
The type of car that works the best is going to vary from family to family.
- Are you looking to keep small children safe, or are you looking for a car for a new teenaged driver?
- Do you want a gas guzzler or something more environmentally friendly?
SUVs equipped with stability controls and rear-end cameras may make the lower gas mileage worth it. In addition, they do have SUV hybrids available, which are an innovative eco-friendly option. On the other hand, a small sedan with extremely high safety ratings could be the better choice for you. A little online research can provide you with information on:
- Vehicle ratings and crash tests
- Included safety features (such as back-up cameras, autobrake sensors, etc.) and available add-ons
- Electronic stability control
- Recalls that may affect the safety of the vehicle
If at all possible, purchase a car that earns the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ and at least 4 out of 5 stars from NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration).