Transportation: Small Car Safety - GAO Report
|Date:||Nov. 30, 1982|
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Testimony was given concerning a previous GAO report on small car safety. The Nation's passenger car fleet has witnessed a steady increase of smaller, lighter cars during the last decade. Because of this, the safety picture for the occupants of smaller cars has become a significant concern. Issues to be resolved include: whether smaller cars are in more accidents, if they protect their occupants in different accident situations, and whether roads are adequate to safely contain the smaller car. GAO analysis and a review of many studies showed that smaller cars were not overrepresented in total vehicle accidents. However, smaller cars were generally overrepresented in single-vehicle accidents with guardrails and median barriers. GAO found that the occupants of smaller cars received more injuries in collisions with larger cars than the occupants of larger cars. The incidence of severe and fatal injuries was two to four times greater for smaller car occupants. Crash tests of smaller cars against roadside hardware have demonstrated that the lighter cars do not perform adequately. GAO analysis and other studies of rollover accidents demonstrated that smaller, lighter cars have a greater likelihood of overturning. Some existing safety analyses of small cars make it difficult to draw conclusions about small car safety because they use different databases, measures of vehicle size, measures of safety, and timeframes. A fuller examination of accident data needs to be conducted. In its report, GAO recommended that the Department of Transportation determine which smaller car safety issues need the greatest attention and adopt countermeasures to reduce accidents and injuries involving smaller cars.