With minicars coming into vogue in Philadelphia for their fuel efficiency, compact size, and adorable style, it may come as a surprise that many of these pint-sized vehicles are receiving dismal scores in the safety department. In recent crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, only one out of 11 minicars tested scored an acceptable rating for the small overlap front crash test. This test measures the damage that a car takes when its front corner hits another vehicle or stationary object. Out of all vehicle categories, the minicars received the lowest test scores.
The small overlap front crash test is one of the most difficult tests issued by either the IIHS or the government because it can be difficult for a vehicle to handle the offset force from the collision. In vehicles with lower safety thresholds, the cabin can collapse, severely injuring or killing the occupants. For vehicles of all other sizes, manufacturers have found creative ways to reinforce structures to pass safety standards.
Small cars have always been at a disadvantage when it comes to driver and passenger safety. The short distance from the front bumper to the front of the passenger compartment can lead to cabin crushing during front impacts. Larger vehicles are also much heavier – they often protect drivers by having enough force to move or bend objects that they hit.
As of 2007, the fatality rate in newer minicars was nearly twice as high as fatality rates in large cars. In minicars, death occurred 35 times per million accidents, as compared to 11 per million in large cars. Even mid-sized cars saw fatality rates that were 17 percent lower than the minicar rates.
The added risks to driving small cars means that drivers definitely need to consider the minicar with the best vehicle protection ratings. Opting for a slightly larger car can also help drivers choose a safer option. In the small car category – just one size up from minicars – 17 vehicles were tested for front overlap collisions. Five cars received good ratings, while another five got acceptable ratings.
When it comes to overall structural scores, all 11 of the tested minicars were found to have marginal to poor ratings. Vehicle structure is the most important part of the equation when it comes to driver and passenger safety – without a strong structure, the risk of injuries and death rises dramatically. Weak structures can often cause other vital safety components to fail by allowing airbags or seats to be shoved out of line.
The IIHS tested for several other safety standards that were found lacking among minicars. Nine out of 11 vehicles received low scores for passenger restraints. Seven of the vehicles let passengers move forward too far during crash tests. Researchers found one of two things: the seatbelt didn't hold passengers in place well enough in some tests, while in other tests, the crash test dummy's head either slid off of the front airbag or missed it entirely. During testing of side curtain airbags, eight of the 11 tested minicars didn't have sufficient coverage in side impacts. In one model, the side curtain airbags didn't deploy at all.
While many fans of the minicar say that they are every bit as safe as larger vehicles, the numbers simply don't add up. However, it is true that recent advances in vehicle safety such as electronic stability control, additional airbags and advanced seat belt design are helping to increase vehicle safety ratings across the board. As the popularity of the minicar rises, hopefully more auto manufacturers make improvements to their designs so that small cars have safety ratings that compare to their larger counterparts. If you have sustained injuries in an auto crash, contact the car accident lawyers of the Lassen Law Firm to get maximum compensation.
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