Wednesday 8th April 2015
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Are small cars safer?  The fact is that bigger, heavier vehicles protect in a crash much better than smaller cars. A small car will always come off worse in a collision with a heavier vehicle.  Some people look at smaller cars as being more fuel efficient and easier to park and manoeuvre, but this could be at the cost of safety.  In car crash tests small cars do well against other small cars but put them up against bigger models and they won’t do so well.  Size and weight are the main factors in the force felt by a car’s occupants in the event of a crash.  The impact of the force directly relates to the injury level sustained.  Structural strength and material are also important issues in how crash proof a car is.

If a car gets hit from the front, the bigger the front end the more time the car has to absorb the impact and reducing the force on the front seat occupants. The bigger and longer the front end, the more ‘crumple zone’ a car has to protect front seat occupants from a front end impact. Heavier cars have much more momentum and need more energy to slow down than a lighter car, the bulk of the car will protect the occupants.  People in a lighter car will feel more of the impact as the front of the car is smaller.

Mini crashed from the front

Bigger heavier vehicles protect in a crash

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in America,  all modern cars are much safer than every before. However, the smaller and lighter cars have twice the fatality rates of the heaviest and biggest cars.  In 2009 the IIHS conducted some tests on car size and safety; they crashed a mini car (Honda Fit) into a midsize car (Honda Accord). They also crashed a two seater city car (Smart Fortwo) into a compact car (Mercedes C Class) and then crashed a subcompact (Toyota Yaris) into a midsize car (Toyota Camry). In each test the bigger, heavier car came out better.

Take, for example, the Fiat 500, a nippy little car which has performed well in crash tests.  On the road though it loses out to bigger models. According to the IIHS it has the highest rate for passenger injury insurance and has the terrible accolade of being named the worst car for passenger injuries. Just look at our picture and see how closely the impact can affect occupants.

If you think about it many people who have just passed their test, especially young drivers who have small budgets, select small cars as they are cheaper, but judging by the above tests and research are these cars really safer? Statistics demonstrate that new and young drivers are highly vulnerable. Young drivers are involved in one in four fatal and serious crashes and one in five new drivers has a crash within six months of passing their driving test.  Something to bear in mind if you are thinking of looking for a new car.