Flutterby™! : Vehicle safety

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Vehicle safety

2004-05-25 17:31:23.465156+00 by Dan Lyke 13 comments

So while our Utah trip left me thinking that a 4WD vehicle would be nice, I'm rather glad that we're starting to think we can fill that void with the tandem bicycle and some reasonable upgrades to take it on rougher road. One of my concerns in buying a 4WD vehicle was safety.

Today Scoble had a link to pictures of identical 40MPH front-impact crash tests of a MINI Cooper and a Ford F150, and the ensuing thread goes into the usual stats on actual deaths per mile, not just results from crash tests.

[ related topics: Psychology, Psychiatry and Personality Automobiles Bicycling - Tandem ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: deaths per mile made: 2004-05-26 12:16:25.516192+00 by: Mark A. Hershberger

One thing I've always wondered is the deaths per mile on a bicycle vs. deaths-per-mile in a car.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-05-26 15:37:55.459069+00 by: TheSHAD0W

Ever since this rise in gasoline prices, trade-ins on SUVs have risen 2000%. So if you want to pick up a cheap 4X4, now's the time.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-05-26 15:52:11.803046+00 by: Dan Lyke

The safety comparison is kind of a moot point for the particular application, because the vast majority of bicycle deaths involve motor vehicle collisions. In the places we want to be able to get to there aren't likely to be any other motor vehicles, so the risk assessment is really comparing the highway miles of the sedan (to carry the tandem to the end of the pavement) and the 4WD vehicle.


The analysis of bicycle miles versus motor vehicle miles always seems to break down at the point where people try to factor in the secondary health effects of both modes of transport. And all of the numbers disagree, to crunch through this I'd have to factor in demographics, ignore the secondary effects of cars, and...

There's more than one doctoral thesis in all of those numbers.

Shadow, alas I'll bet it isn't affecting mid-sized pickups (like the Toyota Tacoma) as much as SUVs, and if I gave in to that side I'd definitely go pickup-ish.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-05-26 17:12:13.292857+00 by: meuon

Last night I carried 4 full sized adults plus all of their gear, plus 6 duffel bags of gear for a ropes course (back of my F150 Crew Cab) was half full. This morning I picked up a 16' 2x6 (on the roof racks), 10 8' 2x4's and 3 sheets of plywood.. In January I carried 4 cavers plus gear and camping equip into the mountains of Mexico.. and spent several HUNDRED miles in 4wd mode on "trails". Around here.. I need 4wd mode to back up my driveway, or park out of the way at Eric's wedding.. or.. going camping this weekend in Coppinger's Cove...Fjording a stream in a Ford..

And last week.. my 84/86 Broncostrocity took a load to the county dump, and I pulled free a 2wd truck with a heavy load.. His words were: 'second time I've been stuck this week, gotta get a 4x4'

Depending on your lifestyle and work habits a good 4wd truck is a necessity. but I see many of them being used by suburban/urban yuppies who have yet to put more than 4 sacks of groceries in the back, and won't even go on gravel roads.

My only comment: if someone buys one. You better need it and use it.

Note: Toyota Tundra: Abysmal Turning Radius. Light load springs. That pic above of my F150 includes a back end FULL of water.. and half of that water put Clem's Tundra on the snubbers.

As for 'deaths per mile'.. A quick Google found little. I'd like to see more raw data..

#Comment Re: made: 2004-05-26 18:55:45.077534+00 by: Dan Lyke

I'd start looking for raw data at the National Center for Statistics and Analysis (NHTSA/USDOT) available information page.

But that's a lot of digging.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-05-26 19:50:19.168837+00 by: Dan Lyke

And for bicycle information, John S. Allen's pages on CPSC data is probably a good place to pick up the right set of keywords for finding more data.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-05-26 20:50:00.924628+00 by: meuon

Wow is that not a terrible interface? But I did find: this PDF that had some interesting stats. And line on page 216: "The association of low risk with large cars/LTVs was strong. Within cars pickup trucks and SUVs, the larger vehicles had much lower fatality rates." Lots of hard data as well as well thought out possibilities.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-05-26 21:24:01.438547+00 by: Dan Lyke

Yep, that interface sucks. And that report also says:

MY 1996-99 pickup trucks and SUVs had, on average, higher fatality rates than MY 1996-99 passenger cars or minivans of comparable weight.

But that "comparable weight" thing is a tricky phrasing. I drive a pretty heavy (2 ton) sedan, but I think that pales in the face of a Suburban or Expedition. I don't have a feel for what SUVs or pickup trucks have a comparable weight.

The DOT claims roughly 800 bicycle deaths per year versus roughly 40k motor vehicle deaths, I'm still trying to find age demographic information on the bicycle deaths (if 700 of those are < 16 then obviously the risk to an adult riding is less), no real information on how that breaks down per mile.

I've seen a couple of sites claiming that, per hour of operation, bicycles have half the fatality rate of automobiles, but I haven't traced those numbers back to their source and everyone who claims numbers for bicycle miles per year or hours per year admits that they did a lot of handwaving, so I'm not sure how anyone came to that conclusion. That would also imply a 100 to 1 ratio of hours in a car to hours on a bike, which I think I could buy.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-05-27 07:36:47.982907+00 by: Mark A. Hershberger

Wow! I'm glad my question piqued some interest. The reason I ask is because I cycle-commute to work (which, for now, is less than a mile away. It was farther.)

I've seen cycling deaths reported, but these tend to be "cyclist was doored and subsequently run over" or something similar. Offroad cycling seems much safer (though, I did take a mountain biker with a broken collar bone to the hospital this past Sunday).

The 800 deaths/yr number gives me some idea, though.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-05-27 17:49:59.300443+00 by: ebradway

Broken collar bones are to mtn bikers as blisters are to hikers ;)

I upgraded from my '74 VW bus to a '94 Nissan Pathfinder. I've only used the 4WD twice - but it's nice to know it's there. The drop in gas mileage, however, has really hurt, especially as gas prices are just about to break $2/gal for regular unleaded in the SE.

The Pathfinder definitely feels safer than the bus - but I don't think I'd be able to hit anything head-on with the bus. Fixed barriers tend to move a little faster than a bus at full-throttle.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-05-28 01:52:16.360271+00 by: Dan Lyke

Mark, I think I can come up with 3 adult cycling deaths from the news out here. One of them was run off the road by a semi-trucker in a road rage incident, the other two were wiped out by drunk drivers on late Sunday mornings. But this is in an area with a lot of bicycling activity.

Since moving to California I've gone over the handlebars a few times, none enough to scrape me up badly, and in my one altercation with a car I was hit from behind because I stopped for a stop sign and the car behind me assumed I wouldn't. Luckily he tagged my rear wheel lightly and slowly enough that it didn't even need re-truing.

In general I'll bet that much as automobile travel rivals air travel if you look at daytime highway miles with drivers between 25 and 60, bicycle travel is similar. And the side-effects of bicycle commuting probably do enough wacky things to the actuarial tables in terms of health effects that the risk drops to insignificant.

Eric, I've only driven a VW bus once, and I think it had fixed cruise control, put a brick on the accelerator and it would hold 50MPH, but I shudder thinking about getting that into a crash Zero crumple zone.

On the "4WD" thing, what I miss most about my BMW 528e is the ground clearance. Most of the places I'd like to go that I can't get to don't need 4WD as much as they do more room between the road and the undercarriage, which is why I wasn't thinking in terms of a Subaru or Audi. 4WD is a legal requirement in some of those places, but when I've been on those roads with such a vehicle we've never locked the front hubs.

So unlike Meuon, I don't find the need in my daily life. Even 30 miles off the pavement in the desert (although there a full-sized spare tire would be nice).

#Comment Re: made: 2004-05-31 17:08:28.357369+00 by: ebradway

The crumple zone in a VW bus is your legs!

Back in the day, when buses were common, there were alot of head-on collisions with other vehicles crossing the yellow lines and such. And a head-on collision in a bus is never pretty. The saying among VW drivers is you drive as though you are strapped to the spare tire in the front. But that's not unlike riding a motorcycle.

You have to watch alot of 4WD vehicles. Many of them don't have a lot of ground clearance. Of course your Maxima is particularly low-riding, so almost anything would be an improvement. The VW bus does well off-road because it has great ground clearance and the rear-engine design gives great traction.

I really like my Pathfinder. Haven't had to take it very far off-road yet. The only drawback is that it gets lousy gas mileage. I've always wanted a Subaru and have come close to buying one a number of times. Audi's lose alot of value quickly and parts are pricier.

I wish I could afford a new car, the Ford Escape Hybrid looks like it may be a winner.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-05-31 20:07:33.146816+00 by: Diane Reese

I'm really glad people are getting excited about hybrid vehicles! And with US manufacturers finally starting to snap to it, their popularity ought to soar even further. One small warning, however. Ford licensed technology from Toyota for their hybrid engine, and as you might guess, Toyota did not give them rights to the current ("second generation") HSD (Hybrid Synergy Drive), but rather to their "first generation" hybrid technology. As someone who has driven vehicles with both types of engines, I can state that the first generation is less powerful, somewhat less peppy and responsive, and slightly noisier. I am crossing my fingers that people for whom hybrid technolgy isn't automatically a happy thing will not drive these early US versions and think, "Damn, that's a sucky engine in that car, forget it." I am looking on the bright side and hoping this is just a silly groundless fear. If you get a chance to drive one, please let me know your reactions.