2010.09.01 Smart car, stupid man

Written by David Green.

Smart car,

stupid man


When my wife and I were returning from the north country a couple of weekends ago, we were passed by a Smart car.


Colleen said something about how nuts it was to see this little thing about a quarter the size of our vehicle zipping past us. She was thinking in terms of the danger of driving one of those little things that fast.

I was thinking how nuts it was that they could go that fast. I had a false impression that they were “city cars” and couldn’t go anywhere close to 75 miles an hour. How wrong I was.

The standard Smart car has an electronically-limited top speed of 90 mph., so there’s a little bit to spare.

But is it safe? Getting into a Smart car is described as putting on a suit of armor. You’re entering a steel cage with surprisingly good safety ratings.

There’s an interesting YouTube video of a Smart car running into a concrete wall, just to see what would happen. The cage worked quite well, although the commentator mentions that any people in the vehicle probably wouldn’t have survived the impact. I wonder how passengers fare in other vehicles when hitting concrete at 70 mph?

I read a report of a man walking away from his crashed Smart car after a highway accident. I’ve seen a photo that allegedly shows a Smart car crushed betwixt two trucks. Smart car owners quickly responded by pointing out that it obviously wasn’t a Smart car if you look closely at the little bit of car showing.

Here’s a quote from a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety:

All things being equal in safety, bigger and heavier is always better. But among the smallest cars, the engineers of the Smart did their homework and designed a high level of safety into a very small package.

OK, bigger and heavier is better, but consider the Smart car vs. riding on a motorcycle at 75 mph.

The standard model sells for $11,990, and that’s with manual window controls. For $2,000 more, it’s pretty much equipped with everything you might want.

Those two women heading back to Indiana were getting about 40 miles per gallon when they passed us. Well, maybe not at that speed, but I won’t even mention what we were getting.

By the way, I read there might be a problem with wind out on the open road, but as writer Patricia Marx points out, in a collision with a disabled kite, the Smart is sure to win.

– 0 –

When perusing old issues of the Observer for Morenci Through the Decades tidbits, I noticed a column from 1990 about spitting.

Spitting was on my mind that day because I had watched a friend of Ben’s spit up into the air, then try to move out of the way before it came back down. He failed; it got him right in the eye and on the forehead.

I wondered if it were really possible to accomplish, but I wanted to design a safe research project—safe from my vantage point.

Ben was first. He had trouble at the beginning of the study. He was getting a forward arc to the spit and running into it. He soon learned through experience, tilted his head back perpendicular, spit and moved. Like any healthy second grader, I suppose, he could clear it.

For a four-year-old it was a different matter. I don’t think Rosanna had sufficient coordination yet and she was getting rather damp when I called off the research.

Actually I didn’t call it off completely. I needed to know if a middle-aged man in relatively good condition could perform this act.

I went into the back yard, looked around for any neighbors in view, spit and got out of the way.

It’s now 20 years later. I’m more than middle aged, I’m not in the same physical condition, but I’m still curious and maybe still a little stupid.

This time I don’t trust the back yard as my research platform. I’m going into the privacy of my garage to see if I still have what it takes.

I’ll be right back.

I don’t know what I was worried about. It was easy. I even repeated the experiment three times with different methods of spitting.

What we do for science.

  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.base Ball
    UMPIRE Thomas Henthorn tosses the bat between team captains Mikayla Price and Chuck Piskoti of Flint’s Lumber City Base Ball Club. Following the 1860 rules, after the bat was grabbed by the captains, captains’ hands advanced to the top of the bat—one hand on top of the other. The captain whose hand ended up on top decided who would bat first. Additional photos of Sunday’s game appear on page 12 of this week’s Observer. The contest was organized in conjunction with Stair District Library’s Hometown Teams exhibit that runs through Nov. 20.
  • Front.chat
    VALUE OF ATHLETICS—Morenci graduate John Bancroft (center) takes a turn at the microphone during a chat session at the opening of the Hometown Teams exhibit at Stair District Library. Clockwise to his left is John Dillon, Jed Hall, Jim Bauer, Joe Farquhar, George Hollstein, George Vereecke and Mike McDowell. Thomas Henthorn (at the podium) kicked off the conversation. Henthorn, a University of Michigan–Flint professor, will return to Morenci this Sunday to lead a game of vintage base ball at the school softball field.
  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.

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