Are Lighter Weight Cars or Heavier Cars Safer in a Crash?

Everyone would like to know when purchasing a new vehicle, are lighter-weight cars or heavier cars safer in a crash? The simplest answer is that heavier cars are safer in a crash than lighter cars. The more complete answer is that there are some factors that can affect this baseline. Typically, older model cars can complicate this straightforward answer, because older heavier cars are not generally safer than more modern lightweight cars. Safety features have developed and evolved in different corners of the car industry at different points. Their improvement and mass distribution have also varied.

The 3-point seatbelt was invented by Volvo. GM was the first to offer airbags, and Porsche was the first to make airbags standard equipment in one of its models. A game-changer for auto safety was the enactment of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act in 1966, which first mandated federal safety standards for motor vehicles.

Since the 60’s, offerings, advancements, and features on the auto market have vastly increased. The best thing to do when determining the safety of a car or truck is to research your options and consult expert sources. Choosing a safe car, truck, or SUV is an enormously important consideration for everyone who drives or rides in your vehicle. Especially in a sprawling metropolis like DFW, in a state with the highest speed limits like Texas, car safety can never be too small a consideration.

At Thompson Law, we see far too many devastating car and truck accidents in our practice. Serious and debilitating injuries occur as a result of vehicles lacking in widely available and accessible modern safety features. Buying the newest, most top-of-the-line vehicle is of course not available to most people. However, everyone can make safety considerations in the cars they choose to purchase, how they maintain them, and how they drive them. With these efforts and the advancements on the horizon, we can all look forward to safer roadways.

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Safety Performance: The Best and the Worst Cars, Trucks, and SUV’s

Who is Responsible for Rating Motor Vehicle Safety in the United States?

There are two major authority organizations that test, analyze, and continually rank the safety and performance of new cars and cars in development in the United States: (1) National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA), particularly its New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) and (2) The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, joined with The Highway Loss Data Institute (IIHS-HLDI).

Safest Models

These experts have designated the following cars as leaders in safety in their respective categories:

Safest Heavy Models

The top 5 models in this category:

  1. GMC Yukon XL 1500 4WD (SUV)
  2. Porsche Cayenne 4WD (Luxury SUV)
  3. Lexus GX 460 4WD (Luxury SUV)
  4. Cadillac Escalade 4WD (Luxury SUV)
  5. Toyota Sienna 4WD (Minivan)
Safest Midsize Models

The top 5 models in this category:

  1. Infiniti QX60 2WD (Luxury SUV)
  2. Lexus NX 200t 4WD (Luxury SUV)
  3. Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan 4WD (Luxury car)
  4. Subaru Outback (Station wagon)
  5. Acura RDX 2WD (Luxury SUV)
Safest Lightweight Models

Only two lightweight cars made the list of the lowest rates of driver deaths.

  1. Volkswagen Golf (4-door car)
  2. Nissan Leaf (4-door car)

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Most Dangerous Models

If you see statistics about the most dangerous vehicles for the current year or the most recent couple of years, take those facts and figures with a grain of salt. It takes several years for safety performance data to be gathered and analyzed with enough precision to determine finalized results. Past performance of a particular vehicle model is often a fairly good indicator of future performance, (if the car has not been significantly redesigned), but it is not a guarantee. Even in cases where year to year redesigns are seemingly minor, there can be considerable safety improvements – or setbacks.

Per the most IIHS’s 2020 status report, analyzing performance results from 2015-17, the 10 most dangerous models as quantified by rate of driver fatalities include:

  1. Ford Fiesta (4-door car – Mini)
  2. Hyundai Accent (4-door car – Mini)
  3. Chevrolet Sonic (4-door car – Small)
  4. Nissan Versa Note Station wagon – Small)
  5. Fiat 500 (2-door car – Mini)
  6. Hyundai Elantra (4-door car – Small)
  7. Kia Forte (4-door car – Small)
  8. Nissan Versa (4-door car – Small)
  9. Kia Rio (4-door car – Mini)
  10. Mustang GT coupe (Sportscar – Midsize)

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Why are Heavier Cars Generally Safer and Lighter Cars Generally More Dangerous?

The main reasons that heavier cars are generally safer than lighter cars are exactly what you might expect or have even experienced in an auto accident yourself. However, safety testing organizations, auto manufacturers, and others have studied and quantified the reasons and the causes for different safety performance.

One key reason that smaller cars are more dangerous is that more force is exerted on passengers of small cars in a crash. Smaller, lighter vehicles will be pushed more dramatically by larger cars. Larger, heavier cars will be less susceptible to that degree of push upon impact. The passengers’ bodies will be impacted by the inertia of the vehicle they are seated in, so those in smaller cars will be moved more aggressively.

There is also less protection for drivers and passengers in small cars from the body and frame of the car itself. Smaller, lighter-weight cars simply have less mass and surface area of protective metals and plastics that make up the car body. This will result in more severe crushing of the vehicle. Whether from the front, behind, or the side of the car, crushed or accordioned car parts can push into the passenger cabin, injuring that inside.

Crash tests have demonstrated these two main factors time and again in performance analysis. Consistently, very large SUVs have the lowest overall death rates (15 fatalities per million registered vehicle years). On the other end of the spectrum, vehicles classed in the mini-car category have the highest overall fatality rates, at 82 fatalities per million registered vehicle years.

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All Cars Are Dangerous in the Wrong Hands

Selecting a safe vehicle is important, but simply choosing the proper machinery does not eliminate the possibility of facing real dangers on the road. Even if you feel very secure in the vehicle choice you have made, you can’t control the behavior of drivers around you, the road conditions, or mechanical failures that can happen.

Crash Contributing Factors

Usually, accidents happen because two or more factors in driver behavior, vehicle mechanics, or the surrounding environment caused a loss of control. The most common crash contributing factors we see in our personal injury law experience can be grouped into one of three categories and include:

Driver Error and Negligence

  • Speeding
  • Drunk Driving
  • Drowsy Driving
  • Distracted Driving
  • Texting and Driving
  • Failure to Keep in Proper Lane
  • Merge Error
  • Running Red Lights

Vehicle Malfunction

  • Windshield Wiper Failure
  • Headlight or Taillight Failure
  • Steering or Suspension Problem
  • Compromised Tires
  • Brake Problem

Dangerous Road Conditions

  • Inappropriate Speed Limits
  • Road Construction
  • Bad Weather
  • Dawn, Dark, or Dusk Hours

Most Common Auto Accident Injuries

Discussing the injuries that result from crashes is important because there are very real consequences for the people involved. Bodily injury, disability, emotional trauma, and financial hardship from the resulting medical bills, repair bills, and lost wages are enormous challenges. Safety should be considered in the choice of what vehicles we select and how we drive them. The major injuries that we see in personal injury cases related to a car accident, truck accidents, or other traffic accidents include:

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Research on the Horizon – Safety Improvements to Look Forward To

It’s not just Formula 1 that has major safety upgrades in their sights for the near future. Everyday drivers can also expect some impressive features to be making their way into new car models. The NHTSA has awarded 11 of the 2021 Volvo models with a 5-star safety rating, largely due to performance and improvements in frontal, side, and rollover crash test results.

Developments from Mercedes were maybe even more exciting. The brand that first pioneered electric safety features in standard offerings with stability control and braking assist is bringing some extraordinary engineering to the market. Their Pre-Safe Impulse Side is an advancement in its active suspension system that actually raises the side of the car 3” within 1/10th of a second when the car is about to be hit from the side. This means that the sills take more of the impact, rather than the doors and frame of the passenger cabin.

Serious safety features aren’t only in the realm of Formula 1, Tesla, or even Mercedes. The 2021 Honda Odyssey has been awarded the Top Safety Pick Plus by the IIHS, which is the most competitive tier. The model’s safety features for slowing and avoiding pedestrian crashes, headlight upgrades, and crashworthiness tests of the van’s frame all performed extraordinarily well. So, while the latest technological advancements often do start in the luxury class, these feats of engineering do not take long to become accessible to more and more drivers.

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Let Thompson Law Take the Accident Burden Off Your Shoulders

Choosing a new car can be a stressful task at the best of times. Finding the model that is the right price and has a good safety rating, while also providing the features that you need, and that you like, can be a tall order! This challenge is all the more difficult when you are trying to find a replacement car for your totaled car after a traumatic accident. Concerns about safety and cost may be even more pressing during such times of emotional and financial strain.

At Thompson Law, we understand what you are going through. Our team of car accident attorneys and legal experts has over 350 combined years of experience and is deeply committed to winning you excellent results. We strive to deliver an excellent and seamless experience to our clients throughout each step of the personal injury claim and case process. We carry the burden for our clients so that they have the time and space to focus on what is most important – healing and recovery.

Whether you, your child, your spouse or any other loved one have recently suffered an accident, Thompson Law is here to help. 24/7/365, we are standing by to take your call, text or email. After your free consultation, we will get to work on your case straight away, and you pay absolutely zero fee unless we win for you.

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If you liked this blog, you may also like:

Does Tesla Autopilot Cause Crashes

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The State of Texas has a statute of limitations of two (2) years for personal injury cases, so if you have experienced any car accident, truck accident or any personal injury incident, consult with an experienced personal injury attorney. The sooner you know your options, the sooner you are on a smooth path to recovery and your deserved compensation. If you’ve been hesitating to reach out, don’t delay any further. Call Thompson Law right away for assistance with your injury and claim.

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Thompson Law Guarantee

Thompson Law receives an attorney fee and you pay no legal fees as our client unless we pay you. Thompson Law has 350 years of combined experience in legal representation and has won over $1.8 billion dollars in cash settlements for our clients. We master the art of managing client cases with empathy, compassion, respect and, of course, prodigious skill. Contact us today for a free, risk-free consultation to discuss your accident and your options.

State law limits the time you have to file a claim after an auto accident. If you have been injured in an accident, call now to get the help you need.