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 3D mobility: a reality check for flying taxis
08.01.2020 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Arbeitswirtschaft und Organisation IAO

nachricht New players, standardization and digitalization for more rail freight transport
16.07.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)

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: Physicist from Hannover Develops New Photon Source for Tap-proof Communication

An international team with the participation of Prof. Dr. Michael Kues from the Cluster of Excellence PhoenixD at Leibniz University Hannover has developed a new method for generating quantum-entangled photons in a spectral range of light that was previously inaccessible. The discovery can make the encryption of satellite-based communications much more secure in the future.

A 15-member research team from the UK, Germany and Japan has developed a new method for generating and detecting quantum-entangled photons at a wavelength of...

Im Focus: Junior scientists at the University of Rostock invent a funnel for light

Together with their colleagues from the University of Würzburg, physicists from the group of Professor Alexander Szameit at the University of Rostock have devised a “funnel” for photons. Their discovery was recently published in the renowned journal Science and holds great promise for novel ultra-sensitive detectors as well as innovative applications in telecommunications and information processing.

The quantum-optical properties of light and its interaction with matter has fascinated the Rostock professor Alexander Szameit since College.

Im Focus: Stem Cells and Nerves Interact in Tissue Regeneration and Cancer Progression

Researchers at the University of Zurich show that different stem cell populations are innervated in distinct ways. Innervation may therefore be crucial for proper tissue regeneration. They also demonstrate that cancer stem cells likewise establish contacts with nerves. Targeting tumour innervation could thus lead to new cancer therapies.

Stem cells can generate a variety of specific tissues and are increasingly used for clinical applications such as the replacement of bone or cartilage....

Im Focus: Artificial solid fog material creates pleasant laser light

An international research team led by Kiel University develops an extremely porous material made of "white graphene" for new laser light applications

With a porosity of 99.99 %, it consists practically only of air, making it one of the lightest materials in the world: Aerobornitride is the name of the...

Im Focus: Cross-technology communication in the Internet of Things significantly simplified

Researchers at Graz University of Technology have developed a framework by which wireless devices with different radio technologies will be able to communicate directly with each other.

Whether networked vehicles that warn of traffic jams in real time, household appliances that can be operated remotely, "wearables" that monitor physical...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“4th Hybrid Materials and Structures 2020” takes place over the internet

26.03.2020 | Event News

Most significant international Learning Analytics conference will take place – fully online

23.03.2020 | Event News

MOC2020: Fraunhofer IOF organises international micro-optics conference in Jena

03.03.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

Phage capsid against influenza: Perfectly fitting inhibitor prevents viral infection

31.03.2020 | Life Sciences

A 'cardiac patch with bioink' developed to repair heart

31.03.2020 | Life Sciences

Artificial intelligence can speed up the detection of stroke

31.03.2020 | Medical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>