April 14, 2009

Crashed into the Mercedes C-Class sedan, the Smart "went airborne and spun around one and a half times."

"[I]n a collision between cars of that weight, the sedan would slow down by 27 m.p.h. while the two-seater would change speed by 53 m.p.h., moving backward at 13 m.p.h."

IN THE EMAIL: A reader [Steve Barns] writes:
Here's a picture of two Smart cars sharing a single parking space. I took the picture in Paris a couple years ago.



In my spare time I am a volunteer firefighter/EMT. The first time I saw a Smart car in the US I was in the back of our rescue (big truck that carries extrication tools for cutting people out of crumpled cars). The driver who is a very experienced firefighter said, "Let's follow them, they're going to need us."

141 comments:

rhhardin said...

That's a favorite problem in high school physics, unless they've feminized the exercise sections.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

But but but....its GREEN!!!!.

Come on people, we all must sacrifice for the (mythological)global warming of the planet.

You guys first. I'll keep on driving my Chevy Blazer.

Dale said...

WAIT! My head is spinning ! . . .

The Left-wing New York Times, which has urged us for 20 years to get out of big cars ("you evil people!") and reduce our carbon travel footprint ("Get in mass transit, you ignorant masses!")is publishing an actual scientific headline:

Study Says Small-Car Buyers Sacrifice Safety (Ann's link above).


BUT, but this article doesn't fit the New York Times agenda! There surely must be a caveat . . . where is it . . . where is it . . . let's see . . . oh yes!:


In any case, the statistical connection between vehicle weight and the risk to occupants is not completely clear. In 2002, the National Academy of Sciences said that steps by car manufacturers to reduce vehicle weight to comply with federal fuel economy standards had resulted in 1,300 to 2,600 additional deaths in 1993. But the number has not been updated.So there.

The Drill SGT said...

speaking of green althouse

http://alt-me.com/

Richard Fagin said...

The collision study using Smart cars may be new, but there are numerous studies going back many years concerning collisions between unequal sized vehicles that concluded essentially the same thing.

mdulakthomson said...

Aw, c'mon, I want a SmartCar. Not for the green-ness, or even the cute factor, but just because two (comfortable) seats and space for a couple of bags of groceries are all I really want.

It seems a strange sort of test, anyway. How often do two cars moving at 40 mph collide head-on? You can't just assume that Carole Migden is in the other vehicle all the time.

m00se said...

I want a Smartcar too, but the reaction to this study is just too rich.

We've known this for years, and now someone does a study on it (again) and everyone is breathless.

My dad worked in Chrysler's impact testing group in the 80's and they documented this multiple times.

Balfegor said...

The collision study using Smart cars may be new, but there are numerous studies going back many years concerning collisions between unequal sized vehicles that concluded essentially the same thing.Indeed -- and motorcyclists and bicyclists probably fare even worse than Smart ForTwo drivers in head-on collisions. Don't really know about pedestrians, since pedestrians can't move as fast.

It seems a strange sort of test, anyway. How often do two cars moving at 40 mph collide head-on? Well, head-on may be rare. I don't drive regularly and I don't research crash statistics, but I suspect (just from riding cabs) that the most common crash is sort of a reverse T-crossing, where one car plows into the other car's side. I don't think drivers of minicars are likely to come out of that much better than they are the head-on crash.

MadisonMan said...

Why drive a SmartCar at 40 mph? They're built for the congestion of cities.

zedzded said...

Those results cannot be correct - the laws of physics are suspended when you have good intentions.

Bissage said...

The solution is ejection seats.

Smilin' Jack said...

downsizing and down-weighting is also associated with an increase in deaths on the highway...It’s a big effect — it’s not small.They say that like it's a bad thing. But of course the root cause of the greenhouse gas problem is overpopulation. So they need to sell this as a feature, not a bug--c'mon, people, it's for the planet!

Pogo said...

At least when you're dead you'll know you've reduced your carbon footprint.

So, win-win.

Pogo said...

The carbon cap and trade process could be made much more efficient if the driving controls were ceded to a central planner and every time Al Gore had a night time party and turned on all the lights to his mega-mansion, the planner would flip a switch and drive your SmartCar right into a concrete wall.

m00se said...

I think they should redesign SUVs so that you're strapped to the front of it, rather than in it.

That'd make this testing more comparable.

mdulakthomson said...

Balfegor,

I suspect (just from riding cabs) that the most common crash is sort of a reverse T-crossing, where one car plows into the other car's side. As it happens, I was a passenger in just such a crash a few months back. Guy driving an Accord ran a red light and hit our Mini Cooper on the passenger side at an intersection in Berkeley. It might have been much worse than it was had he hit a fraction of a second earlier; as it was, the impact was around the rear wheel well rather than the passenger seat, and it still spun the car around 270 degrees or so, and the airbag on my side deployed.

For his part, the other driver lost his front bumper; we had to be towed, because the rear axle was screwed up to the point that the affected wheel was sufficiently out of true that it was scraping its housing.

What would've happened if the impact had been right where I was sitting instead of four feet back, I don't know.

Tibore said...

Holy Jesus! I was going to joke about this, but changed my mind when I watched the video in that article. Did anyone else watch it? Anyone notice just how far into the Smart's passenger compartment the bumper of that Mercedes C went?

That's not a "poor", that's a "fail". No air bag's going to save you if the other car's bumper comes along right behind it.

garage mahal said...

In another fascinating study, a bicycle lost badly in a crash test with a Mercedes as well. Al Gore must feel really stupid about right now!

traditionalguy said...

The "crumple zone" engineered into full and mid size cars is the life saver in the head-on collisions that they are measuring here. The new mini cars don't have a crumple zone. Perhaps a pre-paid funeral should be a standard equiptment feature offered with these toy cars. At the least, the mandatory helmet laws should be applied to these mini-cars.

k*thy said...

Why drive a SmartCar at 40 mph? They're built for the congestion of cities.That's exactly what I was thinking. I'm in Madison and could get around town under 40. It's all I'd use it for. And yes, they are cute.

bobsacamano said...

Environmentalists/lefties 1) have fewer children than those are who predisposed to that ideology, 2) are more likely to drive these smart cars. So, the good news is that as these people begin to die en masse on the bumpers of full-size cars, there will be no orphans to worry about as those children don't exist.

David said...

Duh.

Remember the little light bulb that appears above your head when you have an idea? The light bulb for the inventors of the "smart" car was a compact fluorescent.

My most recent compact fluorescent failed after two weeks. I continue to drive a BMW X-5 and will drive one or something like it until they are no longer available.

David said...

k*thy said...

Why drive a SmartCar at 40 mph? They're built for the congestion of cities.That's exactly what I was thinking. I'm in Madison and could get around town under 40. It's all I'd use it for. And yes, they are cute.
Very sharp thinking, K*thy. It's so much better for the environment to have two cars, one for town and one for the highway.

I hope that, like the car, you also are cute, K*thy. You are going to need it.

Pogo said...

Safety, schmafety.

It's cute, and it saves gas, at least, until it hits something. Then it doesn't use any gas at all.

And the humans inside are pretty much biodegradable.

Elliott A said...

The Mercedes C-Class is a compact car, and is smaller than it looks. The same accident with aN E class, a BMW 5 series or a typical crossover suv would result in annihilation of the smart car. This reminds me of the news article which I read about 20 years ago where a Yugo (and its driver) was obliterated in a collision with a medium sized horse outside of Savannah.

I don't think a driver would survive any intersection accident where an over 4000 pound vehicle hit it any faster than 20 mph, so this doesn't speak well for driving them in cities either.

Tibore said...

"MadisonMan said...
Why drive a SmartCar at 40 mph? They're built for the congestion of cities."
Sure, and if you live in a city where congestion along your routes commonly limit speeds to well below that, I guess you're safe. But let's be honest: Just how prevalent is that situation? In every US city I've either lived in or visited, the main routes to and from common destinations (malls, grocery stores, workplaces, etc.) have traffic that routinely exceeds the 30 to 35 MPH speed limit. I simply cannot see that car truly being "Smart" in situations other than, say, downtown Manhattan, or any extremely congested urban environemnt. It certainly wouldn't be safe in environments that I've had personal experience with.

Diesels and hybrids do just fine as far as fuel usage goes. Motorcycles and other two-wheelers can go places (such as between other vehicles) that a car can't, although there are many situations where that is not necessarily any less lethal. But the Smart car? Big enough to get stuck and have no maneuverability to avoid accidents, yet small enough to kill the passengers in the event of a serious collision. No thanks. Since I can only vouch for my own speeds, and not the other guy's, I won't ever own that car where I currently live.

Now, in some foreign cities where the streets are far narrower and traffic is slow (or practically nonexistent), then yes, that is the situation where a Smart makes sense. But not here in the US, not on a huge majority of roads in this country.

Jennifer said...

Can't believe I found an occasion for a sports analogy. On Althouse, of all places.

The more we pad down and suit up football players, the more they hurl themselves around like idiots and injure themselves. The more we all bulk up our armored vehicles, the more dangerous it gets for all of us - bicyclists and pedestrians, especially.

As long as that handful of idiots goes out looking for the biggest, "safest" rig they can find, everybody else has to play keep up with the Joneses. The arms race of Suburbia. Oy.

Joe said...

These small cars aren't all that fuel efficient. My 1999 Honda Civic gets better gas mileage on the freeway than all of them and only slightly worse in city. A friend of mine used to have a Geo Metro that blew even the Prius away in terms of mileage (granted, it did feel like driving around in a death trap, though it felt safer than a motorcycle.)

The Smart is especially weird. Just looking at the specs, you'd expect something like 40 city/50 hwy, but it's 33/41. That's pathetic for such an ugly, tiny and relatively expensive car.

al said...

Try the Smart car in this test - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjF4tK7P840

Sat in one at the Chicago Auto Show. Construction quality seemed on the cheap side. Not something I'd want anyone I cared about to drive or be in.

Larry J said...

Aw, c'mon, I want a SmartCar. Not for the green-ness, or even the cute factor, but just because two (comfortable) seats and space for a couple of bags of groceries are all I really want.You'd be better off getting a car like a Toyota Corola. The so-called Smart car is overpriced, doesn't really get very good gas mileage for its size while requiring more expensive premium gas, and has limited functionality. I've also looked at one very closely (one is on display at our local mall). It's seriously ugly, IMO.

From Consumer Reports:

A car like this should be fun and zippy. Sadly, the Smart is neither. The ride is harsh, and broken urban pavement, this car's natural habitat, pummels occupants mercilessly. The transmission shifts strangely, with pauses and heaves between gears. Handling is not so responsive, and it takes a lot of wheel winding to coax the Smart through corners. The slow, noisy engine makes it necessary to plan ahead when merging into traffic, although once on the highway it can keep up the pace.

Fuel consumption is a high point. So far we've been averaging 38 mpg. The EPA rates this Smart at 33 in the city, 41 on the highway. However, the economy Smart requires premium fuel.

...

CR's take: Despite its many quirks, the Smart can be rather endearing. But from a strictly practical standpoint, the Smart ForTwo is not so smart. Premium fuel eats up a good part of the savings from its excellent fuel economy. The car seats only two and provides modest cargo space. Although it won't gather a crowd of gawkers, we think a far smarter choice is the Honda Fit (due to be redesigned for 2009). The current Fit costs about the same amount, gets 32 mpg (34 with a stick shift), and has none of the Smart's drawbacks.

An Edjamikated Redneck said...

Ya know, I want a Smart Car too!

But, to me a Smart Car is 77 Caddy Sedan de Ville.

The motorized roller skates they are taking about here? They might work in one of those golf communities where everybody cruises golf carts around, but no way in hell will I be in one on even a city street.

Maybe what happened is the NYT realized that by encouraging its readers into the smaller cars they are killing them off, and this is a try at saving a few subscribers?

Lem said...

The new mini cars don't have a crumple zone.yes they.. its called the driver.

Lem said...

Green is not a very smart color when you are that small.

Green mean go doesn’t it?

Sarah said...

I recommend anybody considering a Smart car get a Honda Fit instead. You can fit four or five people (comfortably, even!) and it gets comparable gas mileage. Plus -- and I may be deluding myself here based on what the car salesman told me -- it's very safe for a small car. Solid construction, lots of airbags, etc.

But my parents are still convinced it's a deathtrap. And when I let my dad drive it, it is.

Nasty, Brutish & Short said...

Our local prosecutor has a policy: Any car accident where one driver is cited and the other driver ends up dead, results in vehicular homicide charges.

I await "but he was driving a smart car" defense. I sure would use it. Smart cars are so unfair to other drivers--we don't want to kill you with what would otherwise be a "light tap."

TMink said...

Jennifer wrote: "As long as that handful of idiots goes out looking for the biggest, "safest" rig they can find, everybody else has to play keep up with the Joneses."

Jennifer, are you really saying that I am an idiot for wanting my wife and children to be driven in a car that will protect them from an accident?

Have you really thought that one through?

Trey

Trooper York said...

Take the subway bitches.

Peter V. Bella said...

Of course, since this was a study by the insurance industry, the rates for these pseudo cars will rise. Then the greenie weenies will stamp their Buster Browns and shake their chubby fists at the unfairness of it. They are trying to save the earth and now they have to pay more. They will refuse to feel the pain and make sacrifices. The administration and the legislature will pass laws prohibiting the insurance increases under a Global Warming initiative or they will tax the increases at ninety percent. Green is good.

Lem said...

I would consider a smart car if only for the convenience of not getting lost at the library ;)

Peter V. Bella said...

I live in Chicago. Aside from being known for its corrupt politics and even more venally corrupt politicians, it is also know as the city of monster pot holes. If a Smart Car ever hit one of those abysses it would be destroyed along with anyone in it. Not so smart.

Tibore said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tibore said...

"Peter V. Bella said...
I live in Chicago. Aside from being known for its corrupt politics and even more venally corrupt politicians, it is also know as the city of monster pot holes. If a Smart Car ever hit one of those abysses it would be destroyed along with anyone in it. Not so smart."


That's the weird thing. The first ever Smart car I ever saw being driven that wasn't in the parking lot of a dealership was in Chicago, somewhere around Lincoln east of Roscoe Village. All I could think at the time was just how miniature it looked in traffic; I recall snorting when I saw it next to a Prius.

You know something's wrong when your car's outmassed by a Prius.

Anyway, what I ended up thinking didn't have anything to do with potholes. I was wondering what the hell would happen if it were ever rear-ended on Lake Shore Drive by some yahoo doing 50+. Like I said above, I don't even think this Smart car is safe for most urban environments.

Tibore said...

"Trooper York said...
Take the subway bitches."


Take them where? And aren't those subway bitches high maintenance?

(*Ducks*)

Fen said...

As long as that handful of idiots goes out looking for the biggest, "safest" rig they can find, everybody else has to play keep up with the Joneses. The arms race of Suburbia.I don't faul them. If I had two kids I'd put them in a fricken tank to get around town. I'll bet thats why most "soccer moms" do the same - not for the convenience of the extra space, but for the safety.

Plus, too many idiots are given driving licenses these days. And the gov won't do a damn thing about all the illegal aliens driving on our roads.

Fen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fen said...

This reminds me of the news article which I read about 20 years ago where a Yugo (and its driver) was obliterated in a collision with a medium sized horse outside of Savannah.-
Ooooh. Good point. Lets see was happens when a "smart" car hits a deer....

Peter V. Bella said...

Fen,
If that Smart Car ever hit a big dog it would be destroyed.

traditionalguy said...

The Texas Cadillac (also called a Chevy Suburban)does to the C class what the C class did to the Smart car. Please wear your seat belts habitually, even going to the store a mile away. I suspect that the professor is not going to upsize her ride any time soon. If the time comes, I suggest looking at a Hyundae Genesis, which has more features than a S-500 at less than half the cost. Two travelling together with a week's luggage, and perhaps golf clubs, needs more than her BMW 2 seater offers. The economy will grow and GROW, all cause by love blooming in the Cincinnati springtime.

Bruce Hayden said...

For his part, the other driver lost his front bumper; we had to be towed, because the rear axle was screwed up to the point that the affected wheel was sufficiently out of true that it was scraping its housing.At first, I thought that the Mini lost its front bumper, and that reminded me of a story from when I was in college almost 40 years ago. We had an actual Mini, not one of these new safer ones, and ended up going into a spinning skid off of I-70 at one of the Idaho Springs (CO) exits. One of the reflector poles along the side of the road cleanly sheared off the front bumper as we spun around. We stopped at the top of the ramp, I went back, picked it up, and strapped it to the ski rack, and we took off. It was apparently fairly easy to reattach. That older Mini was the easiest car I have ever had to work on.

jimbino said...

"Both the minicars and midsize cars were traveling 40 miles per hour, so the crash occurs at 80 m.p.h."

Bad Physics. While the statement is ambiguous at best, a car striking an identical one head-on, each at 40mph, expends roughly the SAME energy it would if striking a "brick wall" at 40mph. (The other expends an equivalent amount.)

Furthermore, the energy (1/2*m*v**2) expended by a car striking a wall at 80 would be TWICE that expended by the two cars together hitting head-on at 40mph.

Folks who put others at risk by driving big cars should pay dearly, as should those, not driving clunkers,who put $400 tail light lenses at risk in a public place, "thin-skull" doctrine be damned.

jimbino said...

Furthermore, if a drunk dog in one of the two cars is injured, the cops list the collision statistically as "an alcohol-related accident." No kidding.

Jennifer said...

Trey - I drive a small car with a better safety rating and better crash test results than the aforementioned Chevy Blazer.

Fault someone for wanting to protect their family? No. Fault someone for blindly assuming bigger is better and hurtling down the street in twice as much steel as they need, putting every pedestrian and cyclist in greater danger and turning every fender bender into a major damage event? Yes.

JAL said...

Couple observations:

The crash isn't a full head on crash, as they bascially are 'half and half.' Still, if the Smartcar guy survived there wouldn't be anything left of his legs to repair.

This type of accident is probably not so unusual, when you get a drunk weaving around the center line. A side hit, as some have mentioned, would be equally as deadly. A tree at a relatively normal speed would also not be good.

I grew up driving the old VW bugs, and years later drove one and by that time was going "Holy cow, did we actually drive these and live?"

Gas mileage: I drive a 21 year old standard shift Volvo with the original engine (well over 300,000 miles) and get 30 mph on the highway. Around 25 running around (which involves 'highway' driving, full disclosure). It is like a (rather small) tank. Put our daughter in a similar one.

If I have to weigh my life and my family's lives against my "carbon footprint" for 80 years, the people win. Some choices are just plain stupid.

Smart cars are cute. But getting broadsided at an intersection in downtown Smallville will kill you quicker in a Smart Car than in any of the others listed.

We need to stop making living cute and green the criteria for worthiness and value if we want to live.

Henry said...

New Smart Car branding:

Safer than a moped and just as fast!

* * *

As for size -- you can't not have a large car if you have two or more toddlers to get around.

Original Mike said...

Congress should just pass a law making it illegal for large cars to crash into small cars.

Problem solved.

zedzded said...

Lefties and greenies want us to die. Soon, and probably, with as much pain as possible.

But first they wish to control every aspect of our life.

Jennifer, I was a cyclist for most of my life - I knew it was up to me to avoid being killed by a motorist. Mind your own business and quit dictating your socialist values to the rest of us.

Henry said...

To add a caveat to the size point -- many SUVs do weigh more but have less interior room than unloveable -- but still large -- minivans.

Bruce Hayden said...

You guys first. I'll keep on driving my Chevy Blazer.I'll match and raise you my GMC 3/4 ton 4x4 Suburban (with the 7.4 Liter engine).

When I got it, I thought it might be useful for intimidation, but then discovered that it seems like half the vehicles around here in N. Nevada are of like size (though this is one of the only 2500's around, most are the slightly lighter 1500's).

JAL said...

You are not *supposed* to have two toddlers.

Or car pool to the soccer game.

Anthony said...

twice as much steel as they needAh, thanks for telling us all what we do and don't "need". We will be reviewing your lifestyle and providing you a list of approved automobiles, living space dimensions, and foodstuffs that you may partake of.

srfwotb said...

As someone who was hit last year while stopped at a stoplight by a DUI who careened over the divider:

Duh.

(That 4-door sedan I was in most likely saved me serious injury.)

Smart Cars are okay for little bops around town, but I freak when I see one of them on the highway.

Balfegor said...

Re:Trooper York:

Take the subway bitches.Pah! Subways don't have enough reach. They need to learn to take the bus. Bonus points for being extra "green," since the city runs the busses even if they're empty.

Besides, you probably have about as much storage space on a bus as you have on a Smart ForTwo. You just need something to roll your packages on when you're dragging them those last few blocks back home. Many modern buses, like the Circulator in D.C., have low floors to improve accessibility, so this is actually probably doable.

Hoosier Daddy said...

I hate the term 'green'. Everytime I hear about 'green jobs' I picture Charleton Heston yelling It's peopppppppppple!!!!

Methadras said...

1.1 litres of death + failure against physics = eco-living.

Methadras said...

Can we just be clear about something, please? SUV's are nothing more than trucks with extended cab covers. That's it.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Fault someone for blindly assuming bigger is better and hurtling down the street in twice as much steel as they need, putting every pedestrian and cyclist in greater danger and turning every fender bender into a major damage event? Yes..
.
That implies the smaller the automobile the better the driver. I can assure as an avid cyclist that I’m in equal danger from a Geo hurtling down the street as I am from a Suburban.

mcg said...

How can this thread have gone on this long without a reference to this song?

mcg said...

As the snow flies

At a used car lot on the edge of town
A liberal guy and a liberal gal
Buy a Yugo

And they drive with pride

Cause if there’s one thing that this world needs
It’s environmental friends who’ll take the lead
In a Yugo

They say, “people don’t you understand
Those suburbans are ruining the land”
But they’ll wish they had a full size van one day
They point fingers at you and me
They say we’re too blind to see
But do we simply use our heads
And choose another way?

As those small wheels turn
Fifty miles to the gallon
And their knees on their chest
They’re gonna save enough gas
For all of the rest
In a Yugo

Then one day on the interstate
They suddenly lose control
They swerve to miss a baby duck
They’re squashed beneath a produce truck

But they drove with pride…

And as the crowds drive past a little flat car
You know they saved a lot of gas
But they didnt get far
In a Yugo

And as they’re trapped inside
At a used car lot on the other side of town
A liberal guy and a liberal gal
Buy a Yugo….

And they drive with pride…

Jennifer said...

This whole you disagree with me so YOU MUST BE A SOCIALIST is getting really old.

Hoosier Daddy - Obviously, there aren't any cute, fuzzy cars that can bounce off pedestrians and cyclists leaving them none the worse for wear. But, your implication that twice the mass collides with no more force is as false as the pretend argument you're trying to shoot down.

Why are we all pretending that there are only giant SUVs and teeny tiny smart cars? You don't have to pick between a bazooka and a slingshot.

mcg said...

No need to pretend, Jennifer. These crash tests involved the ultra-minis and midsize vehicles. And it still wasn't pretty.

David said...

"Methadras said...

Can we just be clear about something, please? SUV's are nothing more than trucks with extended cab covers. That's it."

Well, that clarifies everything.

Jennifer: I don't think you are a socialist. You don't have to be a socialist to be holier than thou (and thou and thou and thou and thou . . .)

Henry said...

As a cyclist and bus rider I split the difference. My good weather vehicle is a death trap. My bad weather vehicle can hit almost anything and not notice.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Hoosier Daddy - Obviously, there aren't any cute, fuzzy cars that can bounce off pedestrians and cyclists leaving them none the worse for wear. But, your implication that twice the mass collides with no more force is as false as the pretend argument you're trying to shoot down..
.
I didn't make any such implication. I'll be just as dead from a Geo hitting me at 40 mph as I would a Suburban. That's a fact.

You made the implication with the statement of a SUV hurtling down the street. What about the SUV following the speed limit? Is the real issue perhaps not the size of the vehicle but how it's being used?

rhhardin said...

Handy equations

E=1/2mv^2 (amount of crumpled metal)
Ft=mv (number of double flips backwards)

mrs whatsit said...

My daughter was recently t-boned in the driver's door by an SUV whose young driver ran a red light at a busy downtown intersection while talking on her cell phone. The driver's door on my daughter's elderly-but-sturdy Subaru held up against the impact from the much-larger SUV and did not deform inward. Therefore, although her beloved car was totalled, my beloved daughter walked away from the crash unhurt.

There is nothing Smart about giving up reasonable impact protection to save a little gas. (For that matter, the Subaru got pretty decent gas mileage.) Environmentalists who disagree may feel free to commit hara kiri whenever they choose. Just don't try to make me or mine join you.

Lem said...

These smart cars are lethal when you drop them from an SUV.

jeff said...

"In any case, the statistical connection between vehicle weight and the risk to occupants is not completely clear."

At least to those who slept thru physics.

My aunt and cousin both bought a couple of these things. Like driving a golf cart. Slightly safer than my Harley.


"Very sharp thinking, K*thy. It's so much better for the environment to have two cars, one for town and one for the highway.
I hope that, like the car, you also are cute, K*thy. You are going to need it."

So if I bought one to drive in the city and even with its pitiful 30 miles to the gallon, It still gets twice the mileage of my jeep you're saying that driving my jeep every day is better for the environment? Why is her statement held up to ridicule?

former law student said...

I got your car crash video right here (from Mythbusters):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MWJU6sbf8Ng

Lem said...

I just checked with the TSA. You cannot take your smart car as carry on.

They are afraid that at high altitude nail polish, Ipods and the smart car would make for a flammable cocktail.

There are also been instances where people just want to take the car into the bathroom help hide the smoke.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

You know it.

THIS is where the green movement really wants us all to be.

Well, except for the upper crust. They get to ride in one of THESE

Jennifer said...

You made the implication with the statement of a SUV hurtling down the street. What about the SUV following the speed limit? Is the real issue perhaps not the size of the vehicle but how it's being used?No. The real implication is that SUV's more often than not do not protect those inside them any more than well designed smaller cars. But, they do pose a bigger threat to the people outside them.

I don't care how they are being used. And, I certainly don't presume to tell others not to drive them. But I will say that people driving them around and feeling safe are idiots.

rocketeer67 said...

Why is her statement held up to ridicule?It's called "embodied energy."

I know science is hard, but you could at least try.

Tibore said...

"Lem said...
I just checked with the TSA. You cannot take your smart car as carry on."


Well that's only because of the overhead bin size. The dirty little secret is that you don't get charged extra for checking it. ;)

And nothing's funnier than watching one come down the chute for you to claim. I always advocate revving the engine and doing a straight launch off the carousel instead of lifiting it off. Like all the sedate travellers do. :D

Shanna said...

I took one of those "how long will you live" kind of tests, and one of the suggestions to live longer was to buy a bigger car.

In another fascinating study, a bicycle lost badly in a crash test with a Mercedes as well. Al Gore must feel really stupid about right now!Seriously, this is a good reason not to bike to work. I had two coworkers break something biking to work (although they weren’t hit by a car, which probably would have resulted in them being dead).

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Fault someone for wanting to protect their family? No. Fault someone for blindly assuming bigger is better and hurtling down the street in twice as much steel as they need,.
.
.
How do you know what somebody else needs? Is it up to YOU to decide? Who voted and make you queen? That's MY title lol

I need the car I drive because

1. There is snow and ice in the winter. I need 4x4 and a high clearance
2. I need the ability to haul things like, trailers with my vehicle.
3. When I go "big" grocery shopping once a month, I need to have plenty of cargo room.
4. I need something that won't wrinkle up like a cheap suit when I hit a deer.

I've also seen plenty of people driving smaller cars causing more chaos on the road by texting, cell phoning, weaving in an out of traffic. If you want to get down to it......bike riders are a hazard on the road since most of them don't pay attention, assume that they have the right of way and force drivers into other lanes and oncoming traffic.

I fault you (and the rest of the Nanny State busybodies) for assuming that bigger isn't better and sticking your nose in my business.

Henry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Henry said...

DBQ wrote: ...bike riders are a hazard on the road since most of them don't pay attention, assume that they have the right of way and force drivers into other lanes and oncoming traffic.As a bike rider I would switch "bike riders" and "drivers" in that statement.

I've twice been run into curbs by drivers diving past me into parking places as if I didn't exist. I've been cursed out by drivers who want to make a left turn through my lane when I'm riding straight through an intersection. Then there's the people who open car doors into your path.

But seriously, all other drivers are dangerous -- not to mention those damn pedestrians.

Maguro said...

So if I bought one to drive in the city and even with its pitiful 30 miles to the gallon, It still gets twice the mileage of my jeep you're saying that driving my jeep every day is better for the environment?Absolutely, because there is an environmental cost to manufacturing another car. Cost is probably the best proxy we have for "amount of environmental resources used". Therefore, if it costs more than the gas you'd save driving it, buying the extra "gas-saving" car is probably not good for the environment.

jayne_cobb said...

While I'm all for fuel efficiency I refuse to drive something that looks like it was made by Playskool

American Liberal Elite said...

I had a good friend who drove a Chevy Suburban because, he said, he would be more likely to survive a crash, especially with a smaller vehicle. I don't think he saw any ethical dimension at all to that choice. Sadly, he himself was done in by inertia when his private plane augered into the ground.

Freeman Hunt said...

As others have pointed out, this is nothing new. Smaller car = not as safe. That's why I've always owned four door, full size sedans. (Not too small, not outrageously large.)

But now that I have two kids, the next car will be a tank. No more sedans. My sincere apologies to those who are annoyed by road tanks, but I see too many teenagers careening around in them, so I think it best that I have one too.

And yeah, sacrificing safety for green is not so Smart.

Peter V. Bella said...

While I'm all for fuel efficiency I refuse to drive something that looks like it was made by PlayskoolCheck and mate. End of argument.

rocketeer67 said...

I don't think he saw any ethical dimension at all to that choice.All due respect, but you seem to be blind to the ethical judgement implicit in your own statement. Could it be that your friend weighed the ethical merits of each potential choice, and determined that his obligation was to maximize the protection of himself and his family?

American Liberal Elite said...

My friend made a decision that, irrespective of who was at fault in an accident, the odds would be in favor of the other driver and his passengers sustaining the greater injury.

rocketeer67 said...

My friend made a decision that, irrespective of who was at fault in an accident, the odds would be in favor of the other driver and his passengers sustaining the greater injury.So? That does not contradict my guess that he made his decision based on what was safest for him and his family, which would be both entirely rational and ethical. Unless you're trying to imply that your friend actually hoped to inflict greater injury to the other car in any accident, which I assume you are not trying to do...

ElcubanitoKC said...

I like the Smart cars, and a lot of other small cars. I want a Smart or a Fiat Cinquecento. I live in the city, downtown, it makes sense to me. Try parallel parking a Suburban between two other cars, and then try getting out of that space without hitting them. I have seen people circle around for a long time trying to find a space to park their gianormous and completely unnecessary trucks and SUVs. You can say that you can go somewhere else, but doesn't that amount to letting your vehicle limit your life?

And I say unnecessary, at least in my opinion, because you can have 4WD and AWD in smaller cars like Subaru makes. You don't need to have that much space for two kids and a bag of groceries. A sedan could do. If you need to haul things everyday, or carry huge amounts of things, that's different. I am grateful that people I know do, and I can borrow their vehicles when I need them. And when they are not available, there are always rentals. And I am specially grateful that we can still choose to drive either a small car or a tank.

ElcubanitoKC said...

And also, I see nothing wrong with being green by personal choice.

I think I am, without anyone forcing me to or without forcing anyoen else to be. Do I believe all of the theories out there? Not really. Do I wish the government would force such things on us? Absolutely NOT.

rocketeer67 said...

And I have to say, I just realized - good Lord, I know lefties are all about guaranteeing equality of outcome - but in an accident? A chaotic, unpredictable and catastrophic event involving infinite variables?

There really are no limits in your minds about what government regulation and control can accomplish, are there? Do you realize how irrational this discussion ultimately makes you seem?

Original Mike said...

Wow.

I just watched the video. Not surprising, really, but ...Wow.

Sofa King said...

I bet if you could easily swap the tires for snow treads on those Smart Cars they'd sell like hotcakes come winter in the North Woods.

Peter V. Bella said...

"Do you realize how irrational this discussion ultimately makes you seem?"

No they do not. They are not rational when it comes to telling people how they should live their lives or what to buy. They do not believe in freedom of choice. The do believe in the so called common good; what is good enough for them to be a common person is good enough for everyone.

Balfegor said...

But seriously, all other drivers are dangerous -- not to mention those damn pedestrians.Bicyclists pose special problems that cars and pedestrians do not, though. Pedestrians have their own roads -- sidewalks -- and only interfere with auto traffic at intersections and when jaywalking. Similarly, cars travel on roads and only interfere with pedestrians at intersections and when driving up onto the sidewalk, e.g. because they are drunk or have lost control of their vehicles. Bicyclists, on the other hand, go on the road, gumming things up for cars, or go on the sidewalk, gumming things up for pedestrians. Too slow for the roads, and too fast for the sidewalk, they are a menace to everyone.

In addition to that, bicyclists -- at least here in DC -- regularly disregard traffic signs, even when the signs are specifically directed at bicyclists, making them even more of a hazard. For example, there are sections of some of the footpaths and jogging trails along the Potomac where the trail has guardrails and is only wide enough for one person or one bicycle. There are signs directing bicyclists to get off their bikes and walk their bikes through these sections. I have never seen a bicyclist do so -- they always just rush through, ringing their little ding-a-ling to get me to jump out of their way. I am told that motorists face similar problems with bicyclists on the road thinking that stop lights, etc. do not apply to bikes, only cars.

Online, some bicyclists defend this gross disregard for the rules of the road by pointing out that if they do end up crashing into a car/pedestrian, they will be hurt more than the driver or the pedestrian. Balderdash! It's not okay to inconvenience and endanger other people just because one has a high tolerance for risk. Bah!

former law student said...

But now that I have two kids, the next car will be a tank.If you mean an SUV, keep in mind they don't handle like a sedan. If I see a vehicle flipped over or on its side on the freeway, it is always an SUV. Keep your tires properly inflated -- underinflation promotes rollover.

Shanna said...

I have seen people circle around for a long time trying to find a space to park their gianormous and completely unnecessary trucks and SUVs.Definitely it makes a lot of sense to have a smaller car in the city, but a Honda Civic works just fine. And you do go over 40 mph not infrequently even in a city. At least I did in DC!

Speaking of DC, you know who bicyclists are a hazard for? Pedestrians. There were many near misses as they careened down sidewalks in georgetown. I hated bicyclists when I lived there.

Fen said...

The real implication is that SUV's more often than not do not protect those inside them any more than well designed smaller cars.Thats simply not true.

And I forgot to add "bullying". We have a Toyota Echo and are routinely forced away from merging into another lane by bigger cars.

I miss my 1/2 ton blazer.

Paul Brinkley said...

Funny thing is, I actually like the Smart cars, too. A coworker actually got one, and he's probably more conservative than DBQ, Hoosier, and others in the bunch here. I think a lot of city dwellers ought to consider getting one, too, not because of obligation to their fellow drivers, but because they're so damned easy to find parking for. Not to mention the money I'd save on fuel (if only Smarts didn't cost so darn much!).

If I wanted to make demands on fellow drivers to increase my safety level on the road, I'll ask them to drive defensively long before I'll ask them to buy a new car. (Which, noted, is a non-option anyway if you have toddlers.)

My sister drives a great big SUV; it'll have a baby seat in it for another few years; it'll be more than that before she doesn't really need something that big. I don't begrudge it one bit, and if I lived in the city near there, I'd get a Smart for myself anyway, if the price dropped a bit. I trust people to drive their cars and trucks safely. Even SUV drivers hate minor accidents, let alone bad crashes.

(Baghdad would be another story. Gimme a damn Stryker for that crap.)

chuckR said...

Freeman Hunt - please take a look at American Scientist March/April 2008 articles by Thomas Wenzel and Marc Ross - Safe Cars for People and the Planet. Despite the tree-huggerish title of the article, they make valid points. A Yukaburbalade's mass helps, but its high center of gravity hurts. According to their data, a Camry/Taurus sized sedan does as well for the driver in the real world as a large SUV. You might be disappointed to find that the dreaded minivan fares best in the real world except for luxury imports. Also take a look at the IIHS vehicle loss/damage statistics - insurance cos. want to take your money and keep all of it and are therefore motivated to give you the straight facts on real world results. All these results include the effects of driving style/judgement, etc.

Me? If only I could discipline myself to drive an Suburban 10mph slower than everyone else - to counter its lousier vehicle dynamics - it would be the safest. Too bad I can't do that.

Original Mike said...

Maybe Freeman meant a real tank.

The gun would come in handy when it's time to park, too.

RR Ryan said...

My neighbors own the Mercedes version of this thing, and being big guys I could never figure out how they fit anything in the car other than themselves. The accident potential always seemed devestating, but then my boyfriend and I drive a town car.

Freeman Hunt said...

Chuck, interesting.

You might be disappointed to find that the dreaded minivan fares best in the real world except for luxury imports.Nah, no disappointment. I prefer them to SUVs. This opinion is extremely unpopular, I know.

Maybe Freeman meant a real tank.There's an idea.

Pogo said...

The SmartCar would be perfect if only it came with a capsule of cyanide to be taken in case of an accident.

Revenant said...

So if I bought one to drive in the city and even with its pitiful 30 miles to the gallon, It still gets twice the mileage of my jeep you're saying that driving my jeep every day is better for the environment?.

Don't forget that there is an enormous environmental impact in simply BUILDING a car -- energy use, resource extraction and refining, transportation, plus of course all the resources used by the people earning a living producing and selling it.

You are only helping the environment if the incremental benefit of driving the green car instead of a non-green one, times the amount of time you spend driving it, is greater than the harm that was done to the environment by building the car in the first place. It almost never is, especially since "green" cars typically have a vastly higher environmental impact associated with their construction than non-green cars do -- all those batteries and fancy composites are a lot harder to produce, and produce a lot more in the way of pollution, than good old-fashioned steel and aluminum.

Revenant said...

Speaking of DC, you know who bicyclists are a hazard for? Pedestrians. There were many near misses as they careened down sidewalks in georgetown. I hated bicyclists when I lived there.Yeah, bikes were banned from on-campus use at the university I attended, shortly before I started there. A student ran into one of the professors and killed him.

Physics! Its not just for nerds.

ElcubanitoKC said...

Speaking of physics, it just occurred to me that the article says this test was performed with cars of the same weight, which invalidates a lot of arguments against other smaller cars. Wouldn't this be a proportions/center of gravity issue?

Dust Bunny Queen said...

You are only helping the environment if the incremental benefit of driving the green car instead of a non-green one, times the amount of time you spend driving it, is greater than the harm that was done to the environment by building the car in the first place..
.
AH!!!!!

I win in the green car sweepstakes if losing means buying new cars that use resources to build.

2002 Blazer

1972 K5 Blazer

1971 GMC 1/2 ton p/u

1964 Chevy Stepside shortbed. (ok..I lose some green points because we dropped in a V-8 crate motor, corvette running gear, disc brakes and drop spindled it to a level any low rider would envy, flow master exhausts and did spend a few more green points on installing a new killer satellite radio/cd/stereo system.)

1954 3/4 ton Chevy flatbed.

How's THAT for recycling? No one has had to waste resources on building new cars for us for quite some time :-D

The whole "green" thing is just a passing fad. Hope it doesn't destroy our economy first.....ooooopppssss .....too late.

Revenant said...

It says "cars of that weight". I interpreted that as "cars with the respective weights of a C-Class and a Smart Car". I doubt a C-Class and a Smart Car have the same weight.

Revenant said...

Googling around a bit it looks like a C-Class masses about half again as much as a Smart Car.

vnjagvet said...

Cars like the Smart have been available off and on for more than 50 years, and many of them got better mileage than the Smart. Those of us somewhat long in the tooth will remember the Isetta

SWBarns said...

The post collision speeds assume a perfectly elastic collision. That just doesn't happen.

vnjagvet said...

From the Article I linked, the nickname for the Isetta in Germany was Sargwagen ("coffin car"; the name apparently came from the small (or rather nonexistent) distance between the passengers and oncoming traffic).

Things haven't changed much. I suspect experience with this type of vehicle has been consistent with the Mercedes test.

Einstein's expression, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” seems to sum it all up.

Hoosier Daddy said...

I don't care how they are being used. .
.
Well that statement alone speaks volumes.

You damn well should care how any automobile is being used.

former law student said...

SargwagenA Sargwagen is a wheeled bier -- but bier means something distinct in German.

Bob From Ohio said...

Minivans are great. Easy to get the kids in and out. Can carry quite a bit. Big enough to be good in crashs and not nearly as prone to rollover as SUVs. Gets adequate gas mileage because it is counted as a car for CAFE standards.

Not "cool" of course but a true Smart car.

Try an Honda Odyessy or Toyota Sienna.

Jennifer said...

Oh for pete's sake. It's getting to the point around here where people see nannystate/socialist/blah blah blah as much as kos kids see whatever the hell it is they blather on about.

Drive whatever you want. But, I reserve the right to laugh at you.

People driving or riding in a sport utility vehicle in 2003 were nearly 11 percent more likely to die in an accident than people in cars, the figures show. Here.A new study from U-Penn’s Children Hospital shows that “children riding in SUVs have similar injury risks to children who ride in passenger cars.” Here.Now, at first blush those appear to be a few years old. But, I'm in a hurry and those were two of the first links that popped up in my google search.

Again, buy a well engineered car of any size and you're better off. Since my children were born, I've bought nothing but cars specifically engineered to accomodate children in the side seats of the back seat. That's the dirty little secret of all your "safe" soccer mom cars - they tell you to keep your kids in the middle seat for a reason. But, you can't very well stack them both on top of each other, can you?

Do some research. Bigger is not always better. That's just naive.

Full disclosure: my husband drives a frigging tank of an old ass truck. He uses it and loves it. I hate driving it.

vnjagvet said...

Weiss oder dunkel, FLS?

zedzded said...

I like that the communists (who don't wish to be called socialists) can determine what others "need" just by looking at them.

Somehow by telling them to mind their own business we are now at the level of Kos. Makes perfect sense to me.

How about this, whiners, rather than discuss what one drives, discuss how much fuel you burn driving it.

Me first - 20 gallons of regular a month in my truck, maybe 5 gallons a year in my chainsaws.

Top that, you green wienies.

ElcubanitoKC said...

And who exactly are the communists in this thread, zedzded?

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I reserve the right to laugh at you..
.
.

And the government reserves the right to put excises and taxes on our personal choices that they don't morally approve of in order to force people to do what they do morally approve of.

They reserve the right to tell us through the power of punitive taxation, fees and laws:

what to eat
where to eat
how much to eat
if we should smoke cigarettes and where we can smoke
how much we can drink and where
what kind of light bulbs we must use
what kind of cars we should drive
how many miles we can drive the cars
what kinds of fire retardants we must put into our pajamas
what kind of dish soap we can use
how we must educate our children
how we can discipline our children
it goes on and on

Now if these moral personal choices are those that can harm others like, drunk driving, smoking in a restaurant, beating your child etc. Then of course the laws should be made. Just being offended that someone is overweight or that they may drive more miles than you or drive a bigger car is no reason to legislate.

BUT!!! the intrusion into every itsy bitsy part of our lives is becoming more than just tiresome. And making it a moral judgement that a person who dresses a certain way, perhaps wearing a fur hat, or drives a certain kind of car or isn't a vegan and eats a steak now again is an evil person, this is the sign of an overly intrusive nanny state and socialistic government.

As Whoopie Goldberg said to the government...."get off of my back."

Peter V. Bella said...

I buy cars to get me from point A to point B and to haul the things I need. I do not buy anything, including cars to supposedly save the planet, reduce carbon footprints, or reduce my fuel consumption for the benefit of others.

I buy cars and everything else for my personal use. I saw that woodburning fireplaces are on sale. I have to get one before they ban those too.

Revenant said...

I reserve the right to laugh at you.

I'm sorry, this blog doesn't take reservations. If you want to laugh at the posters, you'll have to just show up on time and hope there's an opening available.

Joe said...

My 2001 Honda Odyssey is the best car I've ever owned and one of the best I've ever driven. Yes, it's that good. Even better, after 80,000 miles, it's cost us only $600 in repairs, most of that for a complex door sensor/connector.

As for economy; it gets 17-19 mpg city, 22-25 mpg highway (actually measured by me, not estimated.)

Oh, and it hauls a family of six quite well and it can carry more stuff than any SUV I've driven and more than some pickups.

Zach said...

The post collision speeds assume a perfectly elastic collision. That just doesn't happen.There are two things which are always conserved in a collision. Momentum, which is always conserved and always useful, and total energy, which is always conserved but not always useful.

A collision of this sort will be quite inelastic (that's the word for a collision in which some of the kinetic energy is transformed into other types of energy -- ie, smooshing up the car).

Conservation of momentum says that the sum of the two cars' momentum will be the same before and after the collision. Suppose the Mercedes's mass is twice the Smart's and they both have an initial velocity of 40 mph. The total momentum in the direction of the Smart's velocity is mv-(2m)v=-mv. Once the two cars are stuck together in the collision, they'll have the same velocity, which will be -mv/(m+2m)=-v/3. So the change in the Smart's velocity will be 4/3 v = 53 mph, while the change in the Mercedes's velocity will be 2/3 v=27 mph. That's exactly what the test saw.

The only thing you'll find out in a collision like this is how well the cars absorb the impact (basically, they want to spread it out over as long a period as they can so that the driver feels a smaller peak force). The total change in velocity for both cars is determined by the intial masses and velocities, regardless of the car's make.

Joan said...

LOL, Rev.

You might be disappointed to find that the dreaded minivan fares best in the real world except for luxury imports.I adore my 2000 Honda Odyssey, which fits my three kids and all our gear quite comfortably. We're hoping to get another 2-3 years out of it.

Ideally, you want a car that's nimble enough to get out of the way, but big enough to protect you if you do get hit. The Odyssey for all its size handles well, being built on the Accord chassis. Every winter I get to play "dodge the snowbirds", and the Odyssey is very good at getting out of the way.

kentuckyliz said...

I'm nulliparous so I'm net negative in the carbon footprint department, so I have the right to drive a gas guzzlah.

As my preferences go, I like midsize sedans, driven until the wheels fall off. I have two 99 beaters right now.

Sometimes superior people (tm) feel free to express their opinions about my gas mileage.

But my lifetime consumption of cars is lower, as manufactured units, so I am still greener than those who churn through cars faster than I do.

traditionalguy said...

I think Zach just proved that the Crumple Zone designed to absorb impact energy, as steel is bent in toward the firewall, is the safety feature that saves lives. The Smart car's box design eliminates that extra front end steel that made the crumple zone, thereby designing the driver to absorb the peak impact force. As Lem said, the driver IS the crumple zone.

Jennifer said...

DBQ - I don't recall recommending legislation...? All I've done here is express an opinion.

Lol Revenant.

SWBarns said...

Zach,

Classical mechanics doesn't happen on the highway. Lots of outside agents available to absorb energy. Bending all that metal takes energy. If momentum were conserved in a classical sense there would be no damage to the cars, there wouldn't even be a sound at impact.

mcg said...

You're not saying anything Zach didn't already say, SWBarns. His discussion of the inelastic nature of collisions covers that. And indeed that's "classical" too.

Zach said...

SWBarns:

Momentum conservation occurs because the laws of nature don't depend on location. It's a very fundamental symmetry of nature, and it will always be true.

You're thinking of conservation of energy, specifically conservation of kinetic energy. Energy conservation is another deep symmetry of nature -- it occurs because the laws of nature don't change with time -- but it's not always useful, because energy can take a lot of forms such as being radiated away as sound or bending up the car's frame. Because energy can go into forms other than kinetic energy, it's not a useful concept to use in this problem.

Ian said...

Uh, yeah. All other thi,gs being equal the larger car is safer. I knew that when I bought my Smart. And I wouldn't force ANYONE to buy one, they're not an appropriate car for a lot of things. But I drive mine on ahighway at highway speed for 20 minutes of my 30 minute commute evry day. I drive it becaause I like the car. But it is not our only car in the family.

Mercedes isn't selling (or planning to sell from what I can tell) many of these things in the US. Let those of us who want one have them... (Incidentally I've driven mine from NJ to VA and found it more comfortable than the Taurus we have - probably due to the firmer seats

icowrich said...

"But but but....its GREEN!!!!"

No no no....it's cheap!!!!

Aside from being an overpriced car it costs relatively little to get around. Remember that this trend really got going when gas prices took their lasted surge. People want to save money on gas...a very free market approach.

Private citizens aren't risking their lives to *be* green. They are doing it to *save* green.

That's capitalism in action.