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Smart Cars and Safety
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Driving down the highway, you may see one of the new, tiny smart cars and think, "Wow, that thing is neat!" Neat it very well may be, but it is safe? That's the next question on most people's minds, especially those that are inter- esting in purchasing a smart car, the most fuel-efficient car currently available in Amer- ica. One might think that because it is so small, it must be very unsafe, very easily crushed by an oncoming sport utility vehicle.
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By buying a smaller car, are you putting your- self at risk?
The smart Car Meets Safety Standards
If you are one of the millions of consumers who may be considering purchasing a smaller car or even a smart car, you can rest easy be- cause these cars actually have many extra safety features. In fact, US would not even al- low the cars to be imported (they are manu- factured by Mercedes-Benz) if they did not meet certain safety standards. It is true that a major problem with very small, light vehicles that they can be unsafe in a collision because they are subject to more force than other vehicles.
Innovative Automotive Safety Solutions
The smart car's solution to this problem is the innovative "Tridion Steel Safety Shell" a hem- spherical steel cage that encloses the car ina wall of safety. Made of pure, hard steel, it is al- most impossible to crush or crumple this sturdy frame, which also composes most of the smart car's chassis. There is a small
"crumple-zone" at the front of the car that is designed to absorb energy from the impact of an accident. In British crash-tests of up to 70 mph, the Smart fortwo's body remained re- markably intact. In fact, the smart car did bet- ter in the safety tests than other standard-size subcompact cars, including the Honda Civic.
The Smart Car has other safety features in- cluding anti-lock brakes, side and knee air bags and "intelligent" seatbelts that sense motion changes. At 1,500 pounds, the Smart
Car is one of the safest vehicles out there for its size, outperforming the larger vehicles not only in gas mileage, but now even surprisingly in safety.
smart Car Safety Testing
The Smart Car even did well in crash-test rat- ings. Though it was not tested for child-safety ratings because there are no rear seats, the smart car got 3 out of 5 stars for adult occu- pant protection, a four-star safety rating for front impact crashes, and a five-star rating for driver's side impact crash testing. It received
"Good" ratings (the highest you can get) for front and side crash protection in the Insur- ance Institute for Highway safety tests. The smart car has also been tested by a number of other companies and institutions who are curious like consumers as to how this tiny, light vehicle would hold up in a crash. Mer- cedes is also very interested in getting more tests done as this concern is somewhat of a holdup for sales of the vehicle.
Size Matters
Sales aside, you can't argue with the laws of physics, which put small cars at a slight disad- vantage at all times because of the simple fact that they weigh less and are subject to more force in an accident. In reality, if safety is a huge concern, perhaps a mini car is not the best choice for peace of mind. Over time, the market will show what consumers value most: safety or economy. With a Smart Car, you get both to some degree, however due to its smal- let size, safety may be compromised. Even if it is given high ratings by crash tests, you can't argue with the fact that it is absolutely tiny when compared to a 6 ft tall, 4,000 pound
SUV. If you are willing to trust in the extra safety features, and you have an immediate concern with getting good gas mileage, then this relatively safe vehicle may be the right choice for you, but only you can make that
decision.
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