Big and Bad:Are SUV's Really Safe?

Discussion in '4x4's, SUV's and P/U Trucks' started by msirach, Oct 1, 2009.

  1. msirach

    msirach Well-Known Member

    [​IMG] How the S.U.V. ran over automotive safety.

    [FIMG=RIGHT]http://www.cleanmpg.com/photos/data/501/SUV-Rollover.jpg[/FIMG]Malcolm Gladwell - GLADWELL - January 12, 2004

    An old article, but relevant to society today! Thanks JHU! --Ed.

    In the summer of 1996, the Ford Motor Company began building the Expedition, its new, full-sized S.U.V., at the Michigan Truck Plant, in the Detroit suburb of Wayne.

    The Expedition was essentially the F-150 pickup truck with an extra set of doors and two more rows of seats—and the fact that it was a truck was critical.

    Cars have to meet stringent fuel-efficiency regulations. Trucks don't.

    The handling and suspension and braking of cars have to be built to the demanding standards of drivers and passengers.

    Trucks only have to handle like,... [RM]http://www.gladwell.com/2004/2004_01_12_a_suv.html[/RM]
     
  2. worthywads

    worthywads Don't Feel Like Satan, I am to AAA

    Since when did cars have to meet stringent fuel-efficiency standards?
     
  3. jhu

    jhu Well-Known Member

    It's interesting in its analysis of safety perception when they test handling between an SUV and a Porsche Boxster.
     
  4. beatr911

    beatr911 Tightwad

    "The No. 1 feeling is that everything surrounding you should be round and soft, and should give," Rapaille told me. "There should be air bags everywhere. Then there's this notion that you need to be up high. That's a contradiction, because the people who buy these S.U.V.s know at the cortex level that if you are high there is more chance of a rollover. But at the reptilian level they think that if I am bigger and taller I'm safer. You feel secure because you are higher and dominate and look down. That you can look down is psychologically a very powerful notion. And what was the key element of safety when you were a child? It was that your mother fed you, and there was warm liquid. That's why cupholders are absolutely crucial for safety. If there is a car that has no cupholder, it is not safe. If I can put my coffee there, if I can have my food, if everything is round, if it's soft, and if I'm high, then I feel safe.

    Geez Louise. Now where the hell did I leave my reptilian brain?
     
  5. smart-za

    smart-za Well-Known Member

    I drove a Land Rover Discovery the other day - in fact, I've driven that particular Disco several times, over a few hundred km. But this was the first time I'd performed a sudden lane change at speed. Swerving felt horrible, like the vehicle wasn't very well connected to the ground. It erased any feeling of stability that I'd had until that moment. I dunno - perhaps with practice those sorts of maneuvers would feel less crazy, but it didn't feel safe at all to me. I think a high speed slalom exercise would dissuade many potential SUV buyers.

    -Simon
     
  6. Shiba3420

    Shiba3420 Well-Known Member

    beatr911, great description. You could wright a column.


    Opps, guess I should have read the article first, didn't recognise that as a quote.
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2009
  7. Chuck

    Chuck just the messenger

    I can just about guarantee the author read Keith Bradshier's The High and Mighty, including the mention of Rapaille designing trucks and SUVs to be "ballsy" - sorry for the choice of words. Rapaille made a rave review of the Hummer.... his site: http://www.rapailleinstitute.com/
     
  8. xcel

    xcel PZEV, there's nothing like it :) Staff Member

    Hi JHU:

    ___Thanks for the find and I cannot find many flaws in its research or conclusions.

    ___Good Luck

    ___Wayne
     
  9. npauli

    npauli Well-Known Member

    As a driver of a humongous vehicle, I'd say the big ones are worse off for safety in these areas:

    1) not as nimble to avoid accidents
    2) very low-tech structures and lack of highly engineered crumple zones
    3) more likely to roll over
    4) less structure in the upper parts of the cabin (this is a guess - does more structure under your feet mean less up over your head?)

    Big is better for:
    1) more mass = less deceleration for you if you hit another vehicle (but worse for the other vehicle)
    2) It seems like there's more space between me and the outside of the vehicle in all directions. This might be more than offset by the less-highly-engineered nature of that space. But I can be pretty confident that nobody is going to rearend me and get all the way past my 8' bed to intrude on the kids in the back seat. I like that better than having my kids head 8" from the rear glass.

    Overall, I'd probably feel safest in something like a minivan. Highly engineered exoskeleton, designed for families that care about the safety of the kids, enough size/mass to hold it's own in a collision with most passenger vehicles.

    2 intereting notes just to shake things up:

    1) School busses (and any other bus I know of, for that matter), are body-on-frame.

    2) I once checked how insurance companies ranked their losses they've seen with different types of vehicles, for different types of losses (liability, medical payments for all parties involved, vehicle repair, theft, etc.) I remember heavy duty pickups ranked right up at the top of the list with the minivans - even for categories like paying medical expenses for the people you run into. I'm still trying to figure that one out. Maybe there's some correlation with the types of drivers or usage that tends to go with heavy duty pickups.

    Not trying to defend big vehicles here, just summing up some of the pros and cons. I give the article author some credit for doing a bit of the same.
     
  10. Chuck

    Chuck just the messenger

    npauli,

    Big vehicles have their place.

    You are not the target of the article....they are the ones that would get in a flamewar on this thread and give a Prius a drop-dead stare at the pump.

    I think the NTSHA (sp) agrees with you on minivans.
     
  11. msirach

    msirach Well-Known Member

    npauli
    I don't include your truck in this category. The points you posted are good for the pro/con aspect. Too may buyers only look at the pros and not the cons. The design of many SUV's shift too much weight to the sky without regard for length and width of the vehicle.
     
  12. lightfoot

    lightfoot Reformed speeder

    True, but it's worth remembering that it depends on what you hit:
    - if you hit a solid immovable object (bridge abutment, for example) the greater mass will not help and may be a disadvantage (more energy to dissipate)
    - if you hit a larger vehicle (an 80,000 lb semi for example) the additional mass won't help much

    Not hitting anything and not rolling over doing it is still a really good option.
     
  13. WriConsult

    WriConsult Super Moderator

    Great article. Most people have no freakin' clue what makes one vehicle safer than another, that's for sure.

    The biggest problem I have with people assuming bigger=safer is that not only does a big vehicle NOT necessarily make you safer than in, say a midsized sedan, but you make everyone else LESS safe by shifting the brunt of any crash to the other vehicle. My blood boils every time I hear of a parent buying their teenage driver a big SUV "for safety". The very drivers who, for the sake of everyone else's safety, should NOT be driving behemohs! It really is one of the most self-centered things I can imagine.

    Another problem has been an incredible flip-flop in attitude: when I learned to drive in the 80s we knew vehicles were dangerous -- safety was up to the driver. Since then vehicle safety has improved drastically (a GREAT thing, do not get me wrong), but now it seems most people think safety is the responsibility of the vehicle, not the driver. As a consequence people pay less attention to their driving than ever -- and despite immensely safer vehicles non-drunk-driving deaths are actually higher than in the 1980s.

    Ain't that the truth.
     
  14. Chuck

    Chuck just the messenger

    Thumbnail of the car shrink Rapaille on the FSP's he helped design/promote:
    • Women buy them because their parnoia for protection is akin to a mother Grizzley. That or on occasion trying to do a one-up as a bigger SOB than then men.
    • Men buy them to taunt others if they wanna mess with them - thug mentality.
    Not saying that fits a guy in a F350 towing a trailer with four horses, etc, but we have witnessed posers.
     

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