Reader Question: Safety Pick?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Kirk asks: I know and share your disdain for top down auto safety for any and all intrusions. That said, my family will be distance commuting from now forward in a city and county with rapidly expanding high speed (100 mph) collisions from drivers stoned on fentanyl in the morning (users need more frequent injections then get in their cars) teens who’ve stolen SUVs and can’t drive, MVA spikes with marijuana legalization, dramatic reductions in traffic enforcement with LEOs occupied by gang and other crime. Traffic lights and stop signs are rough guidelines only, traffic circles used for in your face automotive jousting. Friends around the country echo these changes in just the last couple years.

Snow, ice and dark haven’t gone away with global warming.

So, what vehicles would you suggest for highest probability survival from, say, $30,000 -$70,000? EMT friends suggest mass. Big trucks and Land Cruisers with max air bags?Others suggest post market bumper heavy duty bumper mods. Your thoughts are always enlightening; I’m certain all of your readers would value your insights. If you’ve covered this before, can you direct me to a link?

Truly and sincerely appreciate your help!

My reply: I think people today are far too focused on crashworthiness – how well a car stands up to impact forces – rather than avoiding the crash.

Situational awareness and competence are, in my view, the greatest guarantors of “safety” because they dramatically reduce the odds of being in a crash, including those caused by others. Constantly check your mirrors, especially when stopped at a traffic light.

I also take the heretical position that a small, agile car with excellent sight lines/visibility can be safer than a big, heavy car that’s less maneuverable, is a larger target and has poor outward visibility. The small car can get out of the way more easily – and it is usually more controllable if subjected to abrupt/violent inputs (such as sharp steering to avoid something that ran into the road).

If you are focused on survivability – how the vehicle takes a hit – then bigger is better. And body-on-frame is best of all. Thus a full-size truck or an SUV based on one – such as the Chevy Silverado/Tahoe or Ford F-150/expedition. Anything in that general line will fill the bill.

These vehicles are also higher up relative to most cars, which is another advantage in a collision because the lower car will impart much of its impact forces (if it hits you) to the lower/structural parts (the frame) rather than the body, which is much more fragile.

After that, a large/rear-drive sedan such as a Benz S or BMW 7 is also harder to hurt – or rather, offers more protection than a typical car.

I’d recommend  Ford Crown Vic but it’s not made any longer, which is too bad. It had the body-on-frame/size thing and was just a really nice boat – comfortable for a whole family, with room for at least two bodies in the trunk!

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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  1. If you want mass, road legal, and comfort, go with an International. An XT is nice but they’re rare and priced accordingly; if you stick with their utility trucks you can get a better deal.

  2. I got crap from my riding buddies because I wasn’t AGATT. I shot back that the best crash protection is crash PREVENTION! That’s why I always insist on being 100% physically and mentally before I get in the saddle.

    Exhibit A is a ride I went on when I had my ZRX. My buddy chided me for not having proper motorcycle clothing on. I was wearing long pants, shoes, MTB gloves, and a long sleeved fleece pullover. We picked up two more riders, one of whom had a NICE Yamaha XJR1300 sport tourer. To make a long story short, the guy on the Yamaha was bee-bopping to whatever he was listening to on XM Radio, which he had on his bike. He wasn’t concentrating, got into a turn too hot, and he crashed. He was ok, but his bike wasn’t. My buddy took the opportunity to point out that the guy’s protective gear had done its job, and Tom (not his real name) was ok. I tactfully kept silent, rather than point out that, had Tom not been listening to XM Rado; had he been concentrating on RIDING his bike; then he wouldn’t have HAD the crash in the first place!

    Since that ride, I did get a motorcycle specific jacket which I normally wear. I also have a one piece riding suit, but it’s too much of a PITA for every ride; I normally use it if I take a road trip on the scooter. That said, I’m not a safety ninny though; I still wear an open face helmet, though it has a face shield.

    But yeah, I’m with you, Eric: the best crash protection is crash PREVENTION; if you don’t get into a crash in the first place, you and your car won’t be hurt-end of story. That’s why I make sure my rides are 100% before I get on; that’s why I make sure I’m 100% too; if we’re both 100%, then I’ll have a good ride. That’s why I’ll never own a bike with a radio, either-too much distraction for an activity that doesn’t allow much room for it. But, that’s just me…


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