Running head-on into a tree isn’t sound policy – even if you are wearing a helmet. Better to avoid running into the tree.
Then you won’t need the helmet.
The government – which is now the chief designer of cars – doesn’t see it this way. It insists that cars be designed to crash into trees – which has the perverse effect of making them more likely to.
They are built with thick windshield supports and high doors and slit-glass, in order to make the structure more able to absorb impact forces from all angles. But this reduces visibility – which increases the chances the driver won’t see something coming that he really ought to be aware of.
Such as another car in his very large blind spot.
This sometimes results in a test of his vehicle’s crashworthiness.
Wouldn’t it have been safer to have been able to see?
Driving a tank also tends to encourage passivity with regard to one’s safety. People tend to think: The car will protect me – so I don’t have to worry as much about protecting myself. This is foolish – even if the car is exceptionally crashworthy, which only means it takes the hit for the sake of protecting you.
Because it still takes the hit – which leaves you with a damaged and possibly totaled car. Which is likely to cost you time, hassle and money. The insurance mafia may raise your rates even if the crash wasn’t because of anything you did. The damage has still been done – and someone’s going to pay for it.
Rest assured, it won’t be the insurance mafia.
The fact is, we all pay for “crashworthy” cars – whether we cause crashes or not – because crashworthy cars cost a fortune to fix, even after “minor” wrecks – and are often just thrown away because they are too expensive to fix relative to what they are worth.
To be saaaaaaaaaaaaafe, new cars are built heavy – structurally – but their exterior body panels are built light and thus, flimsy. They are almost paper thin – and can be bent by hand. You can imagine what happens when they are bent by a tree.
Situational awareness, on the other hand, is free. It – along with baseline competence behind the wheel – are arguably the greatest guarantors of “safety” because they dramatically reduce the odds of being involved a crash at all – including those caused by others.
The safest car, after all, is the car that doesn’t crash.
And that depends on the driver much more than the car.
Constantly check your mirrors, especially when stopped at a traffic light. This is not the time to check email or space out. If you pay attention, you might see someone coming up behind you who clearly doesn’t see that traffic has stopped, that the light is red.
This is lot safer than just sitting there – oblivious – and a few seconds later testing how well the back of your vehicle absorbs being rear-ended by a car doing 45, with you doing zero.
Always assume that people do not pay attention to traffic signals – and often fail to signal. Look for cross-traffic before you enter an intersection – regardless of the green light and irrespective of the right-of-way.
Don’t depend on idiot-proofing driver “assistance” technology to keep you safe.
Keep in your lane – by keeping your eyes on the road. Anticipate the need to brake – so it won’t be an “emergency” when the need to brake suddenly arises. If it’s raining, remember your car has less traction.
If you control for that, you probably won’t need traction control.
Of course, size does matter – if you crash. In that case, bigger is better. And body-on-frame is best of all.
Underneath such vehicles – which are mostly full-size trucks and SUVs based on full-size trucks (e.g., the Chevy Silverado/Tahoe) you will find what amount to heavy steel girders placed longitudinally – like battering rams – along the length of the vehicle, right and left. These are braced laterally, for added strength – and the body is bolted to this massive steel lattice.
If something hits you that hasn’t got these under-the-floorpan battering rams, they’ll be the worse for it.
Trucks and SUVs 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.
On the other hand, a smaller/more agile car with excellent sight lines/visibility can be less likely to crash than a big, heavy car that’s less maneuverable and has poor outward visibility driven by someone not paying attention – because they think they are driving a saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafe car.
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