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Do We Sacrifice Safety for Fuel Efficiency?

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Cars with the greatest fuel economy are often smaller and more compact which can reduce the amount of protection they offer in an accident. While many modern sub-compact and compact vehicles are equipped with the same safety features as larger automobiles, their small size means there is less protecting the driver and passengers from the force of an impact.

Physics in Play

The greater the mass of a vehicle, the more ability it has to absorb the impact from another object whether it is a car in motion or a fixed object such as a barrier or a wall. The more force that is absorbed by the vehicle, the less force is transferred to the vehicle’s occupants. This reduces the severity of the injuries. Simply put, a smaller vehicle has less mass which means more force can be transferred throughout the tissue of those within the passenger compartment. Moreover, smaller vehicles are prone to creating devastating crushing injuries due to their lightweight construction which makes it easy for them to crumple when they are struck by a careless driver in a large vehicle or an object with greater mass. 

Tests by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration

The NHTSA has conducted numerous tests over the past 30 years to determine whether or not sub-compact and compact cars are as safe as manufacturer’s claim. These tests have shown that when a small vehicle has a frontal or side impact with a larger vehicle, those within the smaller vehicle have a greater risk of injury or death than if they were in a similarly sized vehicle.

Each year, the NHTSA issues safety ratings on all vehicles manufactured or sold in the United States. These should be thoroughly reviewed so that drivers know how these vehicles will, and won’t protect them in a collision. However, it should also be remembered that these are only guidelines and the actual performance of the vehicle in a “real world” crash can be very different than performance during testing.  

Liability for Accidents

Those injured in a collision involving a sub-compact or compact car should consult a Chicago car accident attorney to determine liability for injuries, medical expenses, pain and suffering, etc. In addition to the liability other drivers may bear, in accidents involving subcompact and compact vehicles, the vehicle manufacturer may be liable for design defects that facilitated injuries or for malfunctioning safety equipment that failed to protect drivers and passengers.    

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