Are Smart Cars Safe?
11 July 2008
With the recent concern over high gas prices, many people here in Denver are looking for the highest mileage vehicles that they can find to drive on their daily commute. Denver has seen a boom in scooter sales and increased interest in bike commuting over the past few years. However, for those who cannot commute by bike, or do not feel safe riding a scooter in rush hour traffic, there is a better option.
The Smart Car is a radical departure from the typical American automobile. Developed in Europe where gas prices have always been high, streets are narrow and parking spaces at a premium, this car is about half the size of a typical automobile. It only carries two people and weighs close to a thousand pounds less than many of the other gas miser options out there. So, does this car's diminutive size mean that it is dangerous to drive?
Most of us assume that the bigger a vehicle is - the safer it is. This is true to a certain degree. However, safety engineers have been able to pack a tremendous amount of design features into today's smaller cars that decrease the chances that you will be seriously injured in a crash. The Smart Car is a great example of this fact.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IHS) has recently performed comprehensive crash testing on this vehicle and it fared better than most people would have expected for it's size.
In frontal and side impact collisions, the Smart Car received a good rating. This is actually the highest possible rating under the IHS standards. It received an acceptable rating in rear end collisions. IHS performs an off-set frontal crash test which simulates most real-world auto collisions. In a pure frontal impact test performed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration the Smart Car received a five star rating for driver protection and a three star rating for passenger protection.
You may also view a video showing the Smart Car being crashed into a concrete barrier at 70 m.p.h. through the link at the bottom of this article. While not scientific, this video dramatically shows how well this car performs in crashes.
So, it appears as though the Smart Car designers have done a remarkable job at making this car a safe choice for many drivers. If I were looking for a vehicle to be used primarily on city streets with little to no highway driving, I would consider this as an option. If I needed a car to drive on highways, or if I needed to transport more than two people, I would look at other options such as the Honda Civic, which has always maintained an impressive safety record along with excellent fuel efficiency.
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