Is bigger really better in an accident? (caution: crash video)

Posted: June 13, 2012 in Safety

I’ve seen a number of people commenting recently that they are happy they have a larger, older model vehicle because “they just don’t make them like they used to” and that they feel safer knowing that their vehicle is bigger and heavier in the event of an accident because newer cars are so much lighter and made of softer materials (plastics vs steel for example). Are they correct? Will a heavier, tank like vehicle really keep you safer in a wreck?

Pretty stark, don’t you think?! My engineer husband described it this way: the flexible materials and built in crumple zones in the new vehicles dissipate the force of an accident away from the human’s body much more effectively than the design and materials in older vehicles.  Hitting a heavy vehicle like the Bel Air is like hitting a wall – your body takes the full force of the accident forces because there’s nothing there to absorb the energy and slow you down before you stop suddenly!

Similar forces are at play on your dogs in an accident, but we don’t yet have crates with airbags, so the material the crate is made of, how it “fits” the dog, and how it is secured in your vehicle will greatly impact how much force is being applied when it comes to a stop. Crates that don’t give, even a little, and those that are larger than the animal needs would seem to be the most risky – they become the equivalent of a Bel Air because they allow the animal to continue moving unimpeded before coming to a sudden stop on an unforgiving surface. We don’t yet have a modern vehicle version of a dog crate, either.

Disturbing to contemplate, but important to keep in mind as you choose a vehicle and consider your restraint options.

Here’s another video, this time of a 1962 vs. a 2002 Cadillac:

  1. Amy C. says:

    I’m one of the ones who misses my ‘tank’. But that being said, it wasn’t a ’50’s or ’60’s model car, as in theses videos. While I do miss my bigger car, I do know that without air bags they aren’t as safe. The wreck my mother and I were in, I was driving her ’93 Buick Roadmaster. It had a driver’s side airbag, but the sheer size of the car kept us from being killed. Had we been in a smaller, ‘tuna can’ car as my Dad calls them, neither one of us would have walked away from it. The girl that caused the wreck totaled 4 cars, 2 of them new off the lot – a BMW sedan and a Chevrolet Suburban (this was 2001). My Dad replaced my Mom’s car the next week with a ’94 Roadmaster – and I’m glad he did. The pictures of the car after the wreck are just as unnerving as those of Elicia’s.

    I understand what your husband is saying, but I also know what happens to the bodies inside those smaller cars. My Dad, brother, and uncle are all mechanics and I grew up seeing the cars that were brought in to be fixed. After watching your video, I clicked on the one for the small car (Mini cooper?). While both cars withstood the crash, the people in them wouldn’t have. Engineers can only do so much to protect us, I know that. But I still feel safer with a bigger car, and of course air bags and seat belts. You couldn’t pay me a million dollars to ride around in a Mini Cooper on today’s highways. *shudder* Or even the smaller, 2 door sedans for that matter.

    That being said, so many of us use SUV’s and crate our dogs in the cargo area – the very area that is a crumple zone. I am still amazed that Elicia and 5 (initially) of her dogs survived that crash. The pictures of her vehicle is just jaw-dropping. God certainly had her in his hands.

    I have a 2006 Ford Escape and I have the back seats folded down and my girls crates secured to the front seats, so hopefully they are protected within the safety zone for the driver. That being said, I’m still reviewing if there are safer ways to anchor the crates to keep them from flying around. I had a lady say something nasty at a store a while back about how small the crates are – I have Miniature Pinschers, so yes they have small crates. Bigger crates would let them bang around more if we crashed, but on the other hand, the smaller crates mean they could be impaled easier with a wire if it broke. We do the best we can, but I still feel like we are damned if we do, and damned if we don’t without safer crate designs.

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