Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

More quality, not more weight, may make vehicles safer, U-M researcher says

26.07.2002


A University of Michigan physicist and a research scientist are questioning the belief that bigger and heavier vehicles are automatically safer than other cars and trucks.

U-M physicist Marc Ross and Tom Wenzel, a research scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), recently released a report which shows that vehicle quality is actually a better predictor of safety - both for the driver and for other drivers - than weight. The two will discuss their results at a briefing at LBNL’s Washington, D.C. office on July 30.

"Safety is a challenging concept. It includes the design of the car itself, driver demographics and behavior, the kinds of roads, the time of day - a whole host of factors," Ross said. "What we need to do is move away from the idea that bigger and heavier vehicles are automatically safer."

Recent Senate hearings on Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards focused on the increased risk Americans would face if they had to give up their SUVs for vehicles that weigh less. "We set out to see whether that risk is real, whether SUVs really are safer than cars. The answer, by and large, is no," Ross said.

The first major result Ross and Wenzel found is that SUVs are no safer for their drivers than cars. Popular midsize cars, minivans and import luxury cars have the safest records, while SUVs are about as risky as the average midsize or large car, and are no safer than many compact and subcompact models. The researchers defined "risk" as the number of deaths per year per million vehicles.

Other studies have not considered combined risk, which looks at both risk to the driver of the model in question and risk to the drivers of all other vehicles involved in crashes with the model in question. The study found that, when measuring the combined risk, most cars are safer than SUVs, while pickup trucks are much less safe than all other types of vehicle.

"Clearly the characteristics of the drivers of certain types of vehicles also have a strong effect on their safety," Ross said. "However, it is not clear exactly what that effect is, and the age and sex of drivers do not fully explain these results." Some of the safest subcompacts also have a high fraction of young male drivers. At the other extreme, elderly drivers dominate certain large cars but there is no clear pattern suggesting that those cars pose especially high risk to drivers of other cars as a result.

The Chevy Corvette illustrates that both vehicle design and driver behavior can be important. Like drivers of other sports cars, Corvette drivers are much more likely to be killed than drivers of other types of cars. But although Corvettes are often driven dangerously, and are very risky for their own drivers, the risk to drivers of other vehicles is low in collisions with Corvettes. The low-slung design and plastic body of the Corvette probably account for its low risk to others.

To determine quality, Ross and Wenzel used quantifiable parameters such as new car price, used car price, Consumer Reports safety ratings, and country of origin. "It is extremely difficult to determine the inherent safety of a vehicle type or model because it is too hard to separate the contribution of driver characteristics and behavior from the contribution of vehicle design. We can say, however, that quality is a much better predictor of safety than weight," Ross said.

"It turns out that relatively inexpensive light cars do tend to be unsafe, but more expensive light cars are much safer, and are as safe as heavier cars and SUV models. In any event, the argument that lowering the weight of cars to achieve high fuel economy has resulted in excess deaths is unfounded. If designers pay careful attention to safety in vehicle design, smaller cars can be, and indeed have been, made as safe as larger ones," Ross said.

Judy Steeh | EurekAlert
Further information:
http://www.umich.edu/~newsinfo/Releases/2002/Jul02/img/safety.gif

More articles from Transportation and Logistics:

nachricht Researchers 'count cars' -- literally -- to find a better way to control heavy traffic
10.08.2017 | Florida Atlantic University

nachricht From parking garage to smart multi-purpose garage
19.07.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Arbeitswirtschaft und Organisation IAO

All articles from Transportation and Logistics >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA Protects its super heroes from space weather

17.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Spray-on electric rainbows: Making safer electrochromic inks

17.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

17.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>