Small windows and other auto design trends threaten driver visibility - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

Small windows and other auto design trends threaten driver visibility

Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Posted: Saturday, January 21, 2006 5:55 am | Updated: 5:11 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

At last check, a car without windows has not yet appeared, but carmakers are trending toward smaller windows that seem to restrict visibility.

Models with low rooflines, high sills, sharply sloping windshields, large door pillars and heavy tints are widely offered and — based on hot models such as the Chrysler 300 and Nissan’s Z — consumers like the look.

But auto safety experts and many consumers say the design trend, along with other features that restrict visibility, are compromising safety.

‘‘We are very concerned about the visibility issue, both sideward visibility and the vertical height of windows, as well as the sweep of the windshield,’’ said Judie Stone, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. ‘‘There need to be federal standards.’’

The problems Stone lists are well-known to many drivers, particularly those who fall far outside the median heights for men and women.

Miriam Schulman, who stands 5 feet tall, says some car designs restrict her visibility, including her husband’s prized Saab that she recently dented because its high rear shelf blocked her view when backing up.

‘‘There are models of cars that I would never buy because I can hardly see over the steering wheel,’’ said Schulman, who has written about ethical issues involving the medical treatment of short people in her job at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University.

Design experts say the trend toward more complete enclosure of passengers enhances a sense of safety and security, which are issues on the minds of many Americans.

‘‘People feel more protected in a vehicle with smaller windows,’’ said Stewart Reed, chairman of transportation design at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif. Models such as the Nissan Murano, Dodge Magnum and Hummer H2 and H3, among many others, have adopted the small-window look.

Why one vehicle crashes more than another involves a number of factors, including the kinds of drivers who own the vehicles, the stability of a v]ehicle and visibility, among many other elements. Trying to pull one factor, particularly a human one, out of the mix is difficult, if not impossible, says Russ Rader of the Insurance Institute.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has never examined the role vehicle visibility plays in fatal or injury accidents, according to agency spokesman Rae Tyson.

  • Discuss


GetOut on Facebook


GetOut on Twitter


GetOut on Google+


Subscribe to GetOut via RSS

RSS Feeds

Your Az Jobs