CAROLYN'S COMPOSITIONS

March 26, 2008

THE SMART CAR: IS IT SAFE ON AMERICAN ROADS?


WHAT WAS THAT?

We were zipping south on New York State Rt. 81 at a pretty good pace when what should go zipping by?…It couldn’t be…Surely it was NOT!…But it WAS… It was a red….SMART CAR! Whipping down the highway, outracing our Dodge Stratus, weaving in and out of traffic. Monte, driving 72 miles per hour, couldn’t catch up with it. About as quickly traffic would let it, it slipped out of our sight in the distance! It brought to mind the old song about the race between the Nash Rambler and the Cadillac…

My husband Monte spotted it just one mile north of Preble, N. Y. Perhaps someone who’d been in Germany had brought the car home with them. Smart haven’t been sold in American markets before. The company prefers to focus its sales in Europe (according to the AP article written by Matt Moore with a Frankfurt, Germany dateline, that appeared in The Buffalo—N. Y.—News on July 11 and the Greensburg—PA.—Tribune-Review July 14).

Our introduction to the car occurred when we visited our son in Munich, Germany. It was a cute little thing seen frequently on the streets of the city, and we watched as it fit into the tiniest of parking spaces. The tiny “scoot-around” car appealed to me not only because of its maneuverability, but because of its name (I’m a descendent of the Smart family).

I’d posted an article on the Smart car just before we left on our vacation ( THE SMART CAR).

It’s a tiny car, kind of funny looking. The article questioned whether the two-seater’s safety will hold up in competition with SUVs. I question whether it can compete on the highways with the coal trucks that run constantly up and down steep grades found on Laurel Mountain and in other southwestern Pennsylvania coal-production communities.

It might be useful for local running about, but how about the truck-laden superhighways?

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However, “DaimlerChrysler AG is eager” to see this car become a common sight on congested streets in large cities like New York and Los Angeles. The company will begin to market the vehicle “built fortwo” in this country next year.

Moore compares its size to the Ford Explorer. The Smart car is slightly higher and wider than five feet, while the Explorer is over six feet high and wide. It’s length, eight feet eight inches long, doesn’t compare to the nearly sixteen-foot long Explorer. At 1,700 pounds, it underweighs the Explorer models by at least 2,736 pounds.

However, it mileage beats the Explorer models. The Smart car gets 40 miles per gallon.

Although the latest Smart car model hasn’t undergone safety tests in the United states (according to records kept by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, although it may have since this article was originally written), the company marketing it “touts its safety package: a stiff “safety cell” frame, antilock brakes, side and knee air bags and intelligent seat belts that sense motion changes.” However, Moore writes, a previous model, the Smart fortwo City Coupe, achieved a three- out of a possible five-star rating in 2000.

There’s no debate: even though the demonstration I saw on the New York highway could be convincing, I need to be sold on running this car in heavily-trafficked, truck-filled roads and highways. I also wonder how well it would perform in the midst of the steep hills of southwestern Pennsylvania.

Regardless…it is a cute car. A scoot-about vehicle, safe to drive in our community where the roads are unpaved and roads are safe.
The Smart car is being promoted heavily, I would guess, since I read two feature articles this month. It will be interesting to see if the car will market successfully in the United States. Soon Americans will be able to purchase this car.

Below are two web sites. Explore them for further information on the Smart car.
How the Smart Car Works: http://auto.howstuffworks.com/smart-car.htm
Smart Cars of Americas Independent Observation and Clarification on The Redesigned 2007 Smart Fortwo and Safety Concerns: www.prweb.com/releases/2007/2/prweb500865.htm

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3 Comments »

  1. Here is a collection of opinions on the dangers of small cars, from various crash-testing agencies around the world. The capital letters in the IIHS quote were put there by the IIHS. This is a chapter from a book called Car Advice For Women (and Smart Men) that will go on sale May 1, 2008.

    Experts On The Importance Of Vehicle Weight

    NHTSA (U.S)
    “All other things being equal, a heavier vehicle will generally better protect you in a crash. This is particularly the case in two-vehicle crashes. NHTSA research historically has shown that occupants in passenger cars are at a greater risk of being fatally injured when struck in the front or the side by a heavier and higher-riding light truck such as a pickup or SUV.”
    NCAP (EUROPE)
    “In frontal impacts between cars, the occupants of the heavier car or the one with higher structures tend to fare better than those travelling in lighter, lower cars. As these effects are currently impossible to overcome, Euro NCAP only makes comparisons within size categories. The rating of a car within its size category is a function of the quality of its safety design.”
    INSURANCE INSTITUTE OF HIGHWAY SAFETY (U.S.)
    “The first crashworthiness attributes to consider are vehicle size and weight. Small, light vehicles generally offer less protection than larger, heavier ones. There’s less structure to absorb crash energy, so deaths and injuries are more likely to occur in both single- and multiple-vehicle crashes. So if safety is one of your major considerations PASS UP VERY SMALL, LIGHT VEHICLES.”
    ANCAP (Australia)
    “ANCAP results can be used to compare the protection offered to occupants in the event of a severe frontal offset or side impact crash for vehicles of similar size and weight. Care must be taken when comparing results for different vehicles as only those vehicles of similar mass can be correctly compared. As a heavier vehicle will generally provide better protection in a collision with a smaller and lighter car, any result comparison should be restricted to cars of a similar class.”
    -30-

    Comment by Alex Law — March 26, 2008 @ 4:24 am | Reply

  2. […] amount of readers. In the other direction, I posted two articles on the Smart Car THE SMART CAR and THE SMART CAR: IS IT SAFE ON AMERICAN ROADS? which were picked up and added to other sites, and have had a significant response back to my […]

    Pingback by HOW TO MARKET YOUR BOOK ONLINE « Beanerywriters’s Weblog — April 7, 2008 @ 2:41 am | Reply

  3. I picked up my Smart two months ago. And I drive in the second most-congested city in the U.S.: Houston, Texas.

    I’ve taken on the freeway and have been very pleased with its performance. I was doing 72 mph just this past weekend on a trip to the beach. Believe I was getting stares when I passed people.

    Do I want to find out what would happen in a run-in with Suburban? Absolutely not, but then I wouldn’t have wanted to face that test in my past two cars: a Toyota Tercel and a Chevy Metro.

    Smart just disclosed the results of safety tests. I’m feeling OK about my choice.

    And, for the record, I LOVE this little car.

    Comment by Syd Kearney — April 8, 2008 @ 3:29 am | Reply


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