Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Large Vehicles: Killing Machines

"The thing just rolled right up and into the cab and crushed her. On the positive side, it was instant death for my wife."
"From the dad's perspective, it was the smartest thing he could have done [parental equipping of a son with a 'monster truck']. 'I have an irresponsible young lad who wants to drive, I'm going to give him the biggest possible thing on the road so he doesn't get hurt', and sure enough, he never got hurt."
James Taylor, Toronto

"For every pickup truck driver killed in a side impact, 25 were killed in a car. I thought, what if we turned this on its head and found the most lethal vehicles out there?"
"I'm no sociologist, but people look after themselves and their family. It's a very human thing to do, I think."
Clay Gabler, "crash compatibility" specialist, Virginia Tech
Mischa Lopiano/Muskegon Chronicle via AP
Mischa Lopiano/Muskegon Chronicle via AP    Emergency personnel respond to a fatal traffic accident at the intersection of Evanston and Maple Island Road on Wednesday, July 22, 2015, in Egelston Township, Mich.

Auto safety researchers had conventionally focused on which vehicles were best selected to keep their occupants safe in traffic accidents. Dr. Gabler through his studies reached the conclusion that U.S. highways were full of cars "not designed to play nicely with each other." One study year, 1997, revealed that 5,373 Americans involved in crashes between a van or truck were killed. Of that total, 81 percent who died had been passengers in cars.

The result of his research first saw publication during the trending toward SUVs. His research zeroed in on the fact that trucks and vans were quite a lot weightier than passenger cars, their profile giving them a higher "ride height" resulting in their tearing through the passenger compartments of cars, the car bumpers or door sills presenting as no protection whatever in competition with the higher-riding, heavier vehicles.

Medical researchers at the University of Buffalo discovered that when an SUV impacts a car, even if the car has a better crash test rating, the driver of the car was four times likelier to end up dead. "In frontal crashes, SUVs tend to ride over shorter passenger vehicles ... crushing the occupant of the passenger car", according to Dietrich Jehle, an author and professor of emergency medicine.

So here's the dissonance in short; cars like the Honda Civic and the Nissan Cube which pass the crash tests with impeccable results, in reality represent the deadliest vehicles on the road; light-weight, low profile, sitting-driver targets. Scientists in Montreal studied data on three million Canadian crashes to discover that driving an SUV (rather than a car) ensures the driver has a 224% greater chance to cause a fatal crash.

Every life saved in a large vehicle resulted at the expense of 4.3 dead pedestrians, motorcyclists and car drivers, according to a study from the University of California, San Diego. Selecting an unnecessarily large vehicle is the choice of drivers likelier to lead to the maiming or killing of someone driving a smaller, lighter car.

"What does this idiot think he's doing?", were the last words that Michelle Taylor of Toronto ever uttered, speaking to her 83-year-old mother in the passenger seat, while driving Highway 9 in Ontario in her Buick Regal, in response to a truck drifting over from the opposite lane. This wasn't just any truck, but a customized pickup with off-road tires and a "lift kit", driven by a drowsy teenager whom sleep had overtaken while driving.

Ms. Taylor, 53, slowed her vehicle to a virtual stop, pulling as far as she could manage off the shoulder. The driver of the truck sustained no injuries. He was charged with careless driving, and lachrymosely lamented "miss you" to his truck, on Facebook. A year later he began posting photographs of his latest rig: a GMC Denali complete with custom front bumper, off-road tires and a lift kit.

Large vehicles are killers; their bumpers fail to line up with sedans and station wagons; they have stiff frames, they're heavier. Every 450 kilograms in added vehicle weight transforms a vehicle into a 40 percent more likely cause of a fatal collision, from that of a potentially survivable crash. Low gas prices have ramped up the sale of big cars. Pickup trucks claimed the first, second and fourth spots for bestselling vehicles in Canada in the first half of 2015.

(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File)
(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File) - In this July 14, 2015, file photo, employee Efren Martin II inspects a Cadillac Escalade as it nears the final process of assembly at the General Motors plant in Arlington, Texas.

"I care most about the people in MY vehicle", a forum post of a SUV driver of  a stated, claiming their intention is to protect their family from "moronic drivers Facebooking their way to oblivion." Another telling comment on yet another forum had another driver stating: "My SUV protects me from the actions of IDIOTS."

A 1981 study found that 93 percent of American drivers self-rated themselves better than the average driver. It's human nature to be sensitive to the errors made by others, while contrarily rationalizing driving errors they make themselves. "Safest vehicle" lists come complete with SUVs topping the choices. The authors of the University of Buffalo study emphasized the "increased safety of SUVs", even while critically assessing the propensity of SUVs to roll over passenger cars.

"The other guy has a big car, so you're going to feel unsafe unless you have a big one too", explained Michael Anderson, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley; someone who examined the social cost of driving increasingly larger vehicles. The world is a dangerous place; all the more so when Escalades are smashing into Civics.

National Post

Staff Sgt.Jamie Johnston, traffic services co-ordinator for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, said, "There really isn't an enforceable legislation that restricts you from adding suspension modifications -- and we don't track any other modifications." He can't recall crashes where a lifted truck caused otherwise preventable fatalities, but in his 20-year career in crash reconstruction he's familiar with the sight of small cars crushed by larger vehicles.

"The smaller car is always going to feel the bigger bump. Mass is always the deciding issue."

National Post

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