• Oct 23, 2008
Despite numerous positive crash test results and assurances from both manufacturers and safety organizations, we still hear people say they'll never trade their bank-safe SUV for one of those little tin cans on wheels. This makes some people wonder what it would take to change folks' minds about automotive safety.

A first-hand account from Nick Chambers, an admitted greenie who blogs for gas2.0.org, slammed his Yaris into a dirt embankment then rolled it three times. He not only lived, but walked away from his crumpled Toyota with little more than a bump and a really sore neck. He also admits that before his little off-road excursion in the Yaris, he wasn't completely sold on small car safety. But now he says, "Yes. Yes I would trust my family to a small fuel-efficient car, and I'm miraculously alive and mostly uninjured... so no, it's not a death trap."

[Source: gas2.0 via Instapundit]


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  • 75 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      I rolled over in my S40 in the same conditions and the roof did NOT cave like that! Small cars are NOT safe. Keep saying that when you're laying in the hospital bed because Bobby's mom was reaching down for a Starbucks frap and she runs headon into your little 35mpg Yaris with her MKX.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Read this article about SUV safety: http://www.gladwell.com/2004/2004_01_12_a_suv.html. Basically the article explains that we humans make a decision based on how we feel as opposed to the reality. People FEEL safer in an SUV, but that doesn't mean it is (like how I feel safer driving in my car as opposed to riding in an airplane, when tests have shown air travel is safer). The article stresses that it's more important to have a car that can avoid an accident than it is thinking it's inevitable and hope you don't get killed. They took a Porsche and a TrailBlazer in a series of tests to show this. There's much more they talk about, and they hit the nail on the head.
      • 6 Years Ago
      That Yaris in the photo looks almost identical to the one my aunt and uncle wrecked a few months back. I actually had to looked at it a few more times to be sure it wasn't.

      The damage to theirs wasn't quite as extensive though and they didn't roll over. They were on the highway and hit the center median(concrete). Both of them made it out without a single broken bone and not even any cuts. They did have some pretty severe bruising from the seatbelts though.

      Considering they were travelling at highway speed and were side swiped by another car(hit and run no less), I think they were pretty lucky. The salvage yard worker who took my cousin to see the car even asked if the driver had lived.

      My uncle does wonder what might have happened if they had been in their Cadillac(DeVille) instead of the Yaris though.
      • 6 Years Ago
      SUVs are like nuclear weapons - once your neighbors have one, you will need one also for protection.

      Small vehicles can be very safe in a number of accidents (a friend of mine rolled his Golf after hitting a barrier and walked away).

      The problem is what engineers call "vehicle crash incompatibility" - specifically ladder frames and bumper heights.

      Ladder frames absorb very little energy in a crash. They tend to punch right through side impact beams and crumple zones. Side windows are no match for an elevated SUV bumper.

      Side impact beams and side airbags help matters, but if a big vehicle drives onto your roof (or fips over onto your roof) - you probably aren't walking away from that.

      So yes, you can be very safe in a small car - if an SUV doesn't plow into you.

      -ted
        • 6 Years Ago
        @why not

        NICE!! Always good to see some game theory used!

        And to add to the conversation, I did see an Explorer get T-boned by a semi once. Thankfully the semi was only doing about 30 when they hit (slowed down from 60-65mph but still couldn't stop in time), but the results made me think that a small car wouldn't have been much worse. Basically the semi launched the Explorer sideways about 20' into a field, and I would imagine that a smaller car would've just gone further...

        I'm more worried about lifted pickups, personally.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I prefer to state it as thus:

        Those who spoil for buying SUVs because of things like the "t-bone" scenario above are just buying these vehicles as kinetic energy weapons. Instead of working to make us all safer, they're just trying to put it on the other guy.

        It's the prisoner's dilemma made real. And it's rather disgusting actually.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Prisoner's dilemma?

        "Either kill somebody the first night or become somebody's bitch"?

        How is that relevant here?
        • 6 Years Ago
        FINALLY! I kept reading all these small car VS big SUV comments waiting for someone to call it what it is -- an arms race.

        Just because small cars get torn up by big SUV's doesn't mean we should all drive around in SUV's ... that's like saying every country should have a nuclear weapon.

        No, we should all agree to "disarm", and then make up crap about how this guy we don't like drives an SUV -- I swear there's an SUV in his garage. If you'll just let me bomb the garage, you'll see!

        Just kidding. But it is an arms race / prisoner's dilemma. There's really not a way out without government intervention.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Small cars are safe? Go hit a deer at 74mph and DRIVE away from that with nothing but cosmetic damage. My old Silverado did that.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I use a brush guard on my trucks and that probably contributes (transferring force directly to the ladder frame). I'm sure my Suburban won't hold up as well (the Silverado was a 94 and still had a big 'ole chrome bumper). But the fact remains a truck/SUV will strike a deer with the deer's mass being below the hood level, and possible lower than the grille. A wedge shaped car will strike the deer in its upper leg/thigh with the hood absorbing the deer's mass.
        • 6 Years Ago
        If I was driving a car, I wouldn't have hit the deer. Driving your stupid giant truck, never mind the deer, you couldn't turn in time to miss a silo fallen across the road. Defy the stats as much as you like, the safest vehicles you can drive in an EVERYDAY environment, are cars. Maybe if you plan on mashing through wildlife preserves you would be better equipped with a truck, but how many Silverado's have speed-sensitive traction control, advanced ABS, Electronic brake force distribution, and driver stability programs? The point is NOT HITTING STUFF, which my 5-year-old car can do better than any brand-new truck you could sell me.
        • 6 Years Ago
        @akboss,
        I have an 07 Suburban, which has all of those safety goodies you mentioned, plus a 2-speed 4WD system.

        Your car wouldn't be able to move my boat. Your car wouldn't be able to tow the 6-sled snowmobile trailer I rent. Your car couldn't take 7 of your friends with you camping, etc.

        And yes you would have hit the deer. I don't know how often you drive around northern Wisconsin (which is where I live), but most of the roads are 2-lane with no shoulder and a ditch on either side of the road. The lane next to you contains oncoming vehicles. To the right of you is about 2-3ft of gravel followed by a steep ditch. There is nowhere to go but straight. Hitting the deer is less risky than trying to avoid it. On a 2-lane backroad your only option is usually to hit whatever runs out into the road.

        When I hit the deer it was on one such road. It came out so fast there was hardly any time to react and I barely got the brakes on. I've had countless near misses over the years.
        • 6 Years Ago
        If that happened, it was due to something other than the vehicle, like chance.

        I grew up in Flint, Michigan and tons of people owned things like Silverados, K5 Blazers or Suburbans because we built them there. We also had a lot of deer. Several people I know struck deer with these vehicles and inevitably the deer strike lead to a broken radiator, which means you can't drive away, at least for long.

        Just do the basic math. Hitting a 200lb deer at 75mph is a ton of energy, and a plastic grille and a stamped steel bumper is not going to be able to deflect all the energy.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I wonder if he would have the same tune if he had been hit head on by a full size SUV.

      Small cars are getting there though.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Any controlled environment with create a controlled crash--i.e. usually one you can walk away from.

      Put him in a Yaris, Give average Joe R/C control of a Tundra and Put the 2 in a parking lot and we'll see if he survives.
      • 6 Years Ago
      well...THAT'S TOYOTA 4 YOU



      do you expect less ;) not me
      • 6 Years Ago
      Great Nick, Now for the next test go 60 mph crash it into an F-250 going 40. Then Roll it 3 times. Get back to me. Severe Sarcasm aside, I respect the fact he got out alive and it kept him safe, however smashing into dirt isn't really the Hardest of hits.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Dumb.

      Small cars are safe if you like to go around and having single-car accidents by yourself. The less rolling mass you have around you when smashing into a dirt embankment the better.

      Personally, I have never smashed into anything and I am a lot more worried about the distracted parent driving their suburban with 4 screaming kids in while trying to argue on the cell phone with their spouse than I am about dirt embankments.
      The dirt embankments typically do not run red lights or change lanes without looking.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Some of these greenies are certified psychopaths... you sure he wasn't trying to crash through the pearly gates on purpose?
      • 6 Years Ago
      Big car vs small car - big car wins. But not like it did years ago before crumple zones and dozens of airbags.

      I personally like small cars. Sure, stupid soccer mom in her H2 has almost taken out my S2000 by switching lanes while yelling at her brats and talking on her cell phone while putting on make-up and eating a whopper, but the biggest safety feature of a small sports car is accident avoidance. I switched lanes quickly and was hard on the gas fast enough to get out of her damn way. Would she be able to pull of the same maneuver when up against a 18 wheeler?
        • 6 Years Ago
        S2000 is like the ultimate crash avoidance machine - small, light, nimble, fast = awesome, and I'm jealous. And your point is on the money with simply not getting into the accident in the first place.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Frylock350: I dont see how you are qualified to make statements like that when you admit that you have always driven large vehicles. Maybe you should try driving a small car and see how your perception changes. The laws of physics dont agree with you on this one and I for one will be putting more faith in Newton than yourself.
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