Social Question

wildpotato's avatar

Is driving a large vehicle less safe because other drivers can't see around you?

Asked by wildpotato (15224points) May 12th, 2012

There’s the factor that they won’t see the car in front of you slam on its brakes, and will not be able to brake in time, since people rarely leave enough following distance at high speeds. Also, people seem to get overly angry when I pass on the left and they drive up from behind – they’ll tailgate and whip around me on the right to floor it and squeeze back into the passing lane, barely avoiding rear-ending the guy in the middle lane I was passing. I am not one of those drivers who creates a bottleneck in the left lane, either – I pass at a decent clip and move to the right as soon as I get to following distance from the guy behind.

I used to drive a sedan, and never noticed this behavior, but now I drive a minivan. When drivers come up behind sedans in the left lane, they seem more willing to be patient, maintain a safe following distance, and let the sedan hop into the right lane before speeding off. So I think it might be because people can’t see around me and assume that I’m the person hanging out in the left lane instead of passing – rather than that I, too, am penned up behind some slower car in front of me.

This behavior makes me really nervous, and it seems to happen a lot. Other drivers of large, boxy vehicles – does this happen to you much? It makes me think it’s actually less safe to drive a minivan, because someone might easily rear-end me or the car next to me doing this. Do you agree? And in general, do you have any strategies to compensate for the challenges of driving a large car?

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15 Answers

Blackberry's avatar

I think so ,yes. I see the brake lights of cars ahead through the glass of other cars or by simply seeing past the other (smaller) cars.

woodcutter's avatar

We should all be reasonably safe if everyone does their part and just pays attention to what they are doing. Big vehicles shouldn’t matter they are just part of the situation we find ourselves in. Some people just don’t know how to drive is the problem.

wundayatta's avatar

When I first got my SUV, I got rear-ended three times in the first two years. I think it’s for the reason you say: you can’t see the car in front of the car in front of you, so if you are all traveling close to each other on the highway, when there’s lots of traffic, then the car behind you can’t see the car in front of you. I they slam on their brakes, I have little time, and if I slam on my brakes, they don’t have enough time to stop and they run into me.

So I think you are right. Boxier cars and bigger cars are not as safe. I think that dark auto glass also plays into this, because you can’t see through the car in front of you any more. Used to be you could see through their back window and out the front. No longer.

Charles's avatar

Less safe than what? In most cases, the more a car weighs the safer it is. I do understand the point being made by the original post – since a vehicle is bigger is obstructs the vehicle behind it and increases the probability that vehicle may rear end you because it has less situational awareness of stopped traffic ahead of you. Still, what is the alternative? Get a smaller car? If so, that increases the risk of injury in any accident. So, it is a trade off – driving a heavier car may increase one risk but reduces several others.

jerv's avatar

@Charles Not entirely true. Rollovers are more likely due to the way many trucks and SUVs are designed, and if you ever saw this then you would know that bigger/heavier is not always better. Same applies if you ever drove in the wintertime or ever had to take evasive action; lateral inertia is a bitch!

Also note that SUVs and other large vehicles are more likely to kill others; those that are safer inside get that way by being less safe outside. You trade lower medical bills for you in for larger medical bills for others, or possibly even a wrongful death lawsuit or three. Good trade!

jerv's avatar

Okay, on-topic, I find it hard to see around larger vehicles, and considering that I drive a 1985 Corolla, most things qualify as “larger”. That is why I treat them with a little extra care when passing. However, I also know a few things about driving that most people don’t, like the performance envelope of my car (sluggish acceleration and weak brakes, both comparable to a 1-ton pickup truck; 0–60 in 15 seconds, 60–0 in ~197 feet when loaded) and how it’s handling changes under various road/weather conditions. The average person can barely figure out what each of the pedals do and would completely lose their shit if they saw three pedals down there.

There is not much you can do to make things safer for others because others are often either unwise, foolish, stupid, or fucking moronic. About the only thing you can do is leave a decent gap between you and the person in front of you. Of course, I also drive at flow-of-traffic speeds (as opposed to the posted speed limit) making it rare for anybody other than a Speed Racer wannabe to pass me. Cops would rather see people speed than obstruct traffic ;)

woodcutter's avatar

Ah pitty the foo in the Prius who ass ends a UPS truck and then is rear ended by phone Co. truck. Y’all can have those micro cars, I like heavy metal. Maintain your 2 second rule and leave the cell phone in the trunk and we all get home on time. The most hated person in the world is the dink who ass ends the guy in front during the evening commute- ass fucking the lanes down to one and plugging up the works. Those people dream middle fingers for the next few days I would think.

jerv's avatar

@woodcutter Did you watch the video I linked above? It’s the 1959 Belair versus a 2009 Malibu. Guess who wins ;)

woodcutter's avatar

@jerv running the basic windows 98 right now so no vids for me but I’m gonna guess the older car wins every time. Too bad they get harder to find every year that goes by.

Charles's avatar

“Not entirely true. Rollovers are more likely due to the way many trucks and SUVs are designed, and if you ever saw this then you would know that bigger/heavier is not always better. ”

I never wrote “always”. Still, it’s the aggregate of risks that must be considered.

Drive to your local fire station and see what kind of vehicles those guys drive: Mostly big safe vehicles. Why? Because they are familiar with what vehicles the survivors of car crashes were driving.

whitenoise's avatar

@Charles definitely not true for the other people in traffic.

jerv's avatar

@woodcutter Your naivete amuses me :)

How about some still images; I think the pics speak for themselves.

Pic of drivers sides – Before and after
2009 Malibu after impact – Drivers door removed
1959 Bel Air after impact – Drivers door removed

Now which would you rather be in?

@Charles The Mazda Protege, is a big vehicle! And that Focus next to it is huge!

Sorry, but I see a lot of regular passenger cars at the firehouse a half-mile up the road. I do notice that many of them are driving modern cars with side impact beams and airbags everywhere though.

You are correct that there is an aggregate of risks; that is why I say large vehicles are less safe. There are certain circumstances where they are safer (for the occupants), but on balance, they have enough increased risks in other areas and enough of a harder time with accident avoidance that, on balance, they lose.

wildpotato's avatar

Thanks for your answers, everyone. After reading your replies and especially wundy’s story and jerv’s video, I think I’ll order one of these and cut off the first two sentences so it’s less preachy & less words to read.

jerv's avatar

@wildpotato My rear license frame reads, “Too close for missiles, switching to guns” that often gets people to back off while my hood has a big skull which usually makes people in front of me change lanes before acting stupid. Sometimes, the best defense is making others believe that you are insane ;)

Linda_Owl's avatar

To me, large vehicles are a danger in traffic because you cannot see past them. I drive a 2008 Chevy Cobalt. It seats five people & it gets good gas mileage. However, I frequently find my view of the roadway blocked by SUVs & great big pick-up trucks (and most of these big vehicles are occupied by only the driver). Why ONE person needs to drive such a large vehicle is something I do not understand.

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