Many early passenger cars were huge. Some even had fins. The trend changed as the advantages of smaller cars became clear. Small cars are generally less expensive. They get better fuel mileage, which makes them cheaper to run while being better for the economy. Smaller cars are easier to park and maneuver.
The size of some cars and trucks is shifting back toward larger vehicles, according to a recent report by Jalopnik. – perhaps excessively so. The dimensions of trucks and SUVs are expanding – and getting proportionately closer to the dimensions of a tank.
The author of the article compared the dimensions of an M4 Sherman tank with other SUVs and pickup trucks. The length, width, and height of the vehicles were very comparable to the tanks. In some cases, the vehicles were larger than the tanks. The top five in overall dimensions were these vehicles (all measurements are approximate):
M4 Sherman tank
- 225” (about 18.75’)
- 105” (about 8.75’)
- 110” (about 9.17’)
Ford F-150 pickup truck
- 227” (18.9’)
- 75” (6.25’)
- 73” (6.08’)
Ram 1500 pickup truck
- 225” (18.75’)
- 75” (6.25’)
- 73” (6.08’)
Chevy Suburban SUV
- 230” (19.17’)
- 110” (8.75’)
- 105” (8.75’)
Honda CRV SUV
- 180” (15’)
- 73” (6.25’)
- 70” (5.83’)
The other comparably sized vehicles examined in order from largest to smallest were the Panzer IV (tank), T-34 (tank), M22 Locust (a tank), and Smart Fourfour (SUV)
How does weight and size affect traffic safety?
In general, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the forces of an accident (and the risk of injury) are proportional to the size and weight of the vehicles involved in the crash. According to the IIHS, there are benefits and drawbacks when it comes to considering the weight and size of vehicles.
Larger, heavier vehicles provide better crash protection than smaller vehicles
A big factor in safety is the distance from the front of the car to the driver or passengers. Longer cars are better than smaller cars in this regard because the longer frame can take the brunt of the force. When heavier vehicles collide with smaller vehicles, the heavier vehicle tends to continue moving forward – which means the occupants are subject to less force.
IIHS showed that the size and weight of vehicles in crash maters by conducting a test in 2019 that crashed a midsize SUV and a smaller KIA car (a Kia Fore) – and a large Toyota vehicle with a Toyota minicar (Toyota Yaris iA). Both the smaller cars performed poorly when they crashed with the larger vehicles – even though IIHS had given good protection ratings to both the smaller cars (when compared to other smaller cars).
The IIHS found that as the size of a vehicle increases, fatalities decrease for drivers and passengers in those large vehicles. The weight of the vehicle has the same inversely proportional effect.
SUVs and trucks have better alignment of bumpers and other structures
The IIHS says that while lighter vehicles normally take more of the force in a collision with a heavier vehicle, manufacturers “have reduced the threat SUVs and pickups pose by more closely aligning their energy-absorbing structures with those of cars.”
One of the problems heavier vehicles created has been improved with technology. It used to be that pickups and SUVs created an added danger because their energy-absorbing structures (such as bumpers) were higher than those on lighter cars. Instead of the two structures helping each other, heavier taller vehicles would “effectively climb up the hood of small cars in crashes, increasing the risk of injury and death for the people in the car.”
The good news, according to IIHS, is that the makers of pickups and SUVs have worked to align their energy-absorbing structures with the height of the cars they may strike.
Large vehicles are especially dangerous to pedestrians and cyclists
According to IIHS, when pickups and cars collide, the driver of a car is 2.5 times more likely to die compared to two cars striking each other – all other conditions being equal. The risk of death increase, however, when a pickup or SUV hits a person, such as a pedestrian or a cyclist. Consumer Reports explains that “modern pickups—which can have tall hoods, large blind spots, and stiff body-on-frame designs, and which can often exceed 4,000 pounds—are particularly deadly in crashes with pedestrians and smaller, lighter vehicles.”
It is the height that makes them dangerous. The front edge of the hood of a Ford F-250, for example, sits 55” (4.6’) off the ground. A blind spot that high makes it virtually impossible to see children or some cyclists. Per CR:
More than 42,000 people were killed and 4.8 million seriously injured on U.S. roadways last year [in 2020], an 8 percent increase from the year before, despite a decrease in miles traveled. Pedestrian fatalities rose 46 percent over the past decade, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association, and the deaths reflect societal inequities. Low-income people are more likely to be struck; elderly pedestrians and wheelchair users are at higher risk of mortality when hit by a vehicle; and Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous people are overrepresented in pedestrian crash fatalities.
At Philbrook Law Office, our Vancouver, WA car accident lawyers file claims against all responsible parties including drivers, car owners, and car manufacturers. If you or your loved one suffered an injury in a wreck in Washington State or in Portland, we are here to help.
Our attorneys file negligence claims, product liability claims, and wrongful death claims on behalf of injury victims and their families. To learn more about our services, please call our offices in Vancouver or Battle Ground, WA at 360-695-3309 or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation.
Founding Attorney Matthew Philbrook attended Clark College, Washington State University, and Gonzaga University School of Law. He is a member of the Washington State and Oregon State Bar Associations and started Philbrook Law Office in 2005. He specializes in Personal Injury, DUI and Criminal Defense cases. Learn more about Mr. Philbrook.