Small Car Safety Improving
( www.usnews.com ) - Small cars are the only segment of the automotive market still growing in the U.S. As sales of every other type of vehicle have slowed, small car sales remain strong. But one traditional reason buyers avoid compact cars is the perception that they aren't as safe as larger vehicles.
The Wall Street Journal reports, "Small cars are a lot safer than they used to be -- as safe, by one measure, as midsize cars were a decade ago." They often perform as well in safety testing as larger vehicles. Recently, the smallest car for sale in the U.S. -- the Smart Fortwo -- even achieved "good" ratings in Insurance Institute for Highway Safety front and side crash tests .
U.S. News adds, "Stricter federal and industry safety standards-and widely publicized crash-test ratings-have significantly raised the safety performance of all cars. A compact is still at a disadvantage if it collides with a higher or heavier vehicle, but new technology like side-curtain air bags and electronic stability control makes accidents more avoidable and survivable, a boon for smaller vehicles." In addition, "many small cars now come with big 16- or 17-inch tires, sophisticated steering, better noise dampening, and other enhancements that make them more stable on the highway and less likely to waver in a gust of wind."
However, the WSJ cautions, "The bad news is that small and minicars as a class still have higher fatality rates per million registered vehicles than most larger vehicles." Adrian Lund, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, says "This is just the laws of physics. It's size and weight and the distance it takes to bring objects to a stop." But researchers are doing their best to close the gap and make small cars as safe as their larger counterparts. If the tiny Smart car, only eight feet long, can achieve crash test scores thought possible only for much larger vehicles just a decade ago, it seems like they may well get there.