Safer cars obstruct drivers' vision
Published 24/02/2010 | 05:00
SAFER and stronger cars are cutting down on driver's vision, according to a new report.
It is something we can easily overlook when we buy a 'nice' car with modern shapes, curves and . . . pillars that would blot out the sun.
'Which? Car' reveals the best and worst for car visibility in its latest survey.
It says that all-round visibility is, in the main, worse than it was around 15 years ago.
"Car roof and door pillars have been strengthened and have grown from barely noticeable strips to thick chunks of metal," it claims.
While vehicle blind spots are estimated to account for just 1pc of accidents, lack of view and vision may contribute to far more.
And, anyway, there is the daily inconvenience, stress and uncertainty when you are parking, reversing, turning on and off roads.
'Which? Car' says it carried out rigorous research and the best of the bunch is the small Smart Fortwo Coupe.
It gets a visibility score of 64.8pc -- in part because it does not have a 'B' pillar (between the front and rear doors).
In second place was the Fiat 500 (58.7pc) with the Citroen C3 Picasso (58.2pc) coming third.
The high-driving position in the Ford Galaxy people carrier (57.4pc) is praised for benefiting the driver's line of sight. Praise on a more muted level is reserved for similar reasons to the VW Golf Plus (56.2pc).
Worst offenders are convertibles such as the Porsche Boxster (31.4pc), BMW Z4 (38.7pc) and Lexus IS 250C (39.4pc). But while they rate poorly with the roof up, visibility improves when it is down.
The report also says there "are issues with the futuristic Honda Civic (37.6pc) which has a split rear screen that does rear visibility no favours."
"It's vital to make sure a car protects its occupants in a crash, but accident research -- and common sense -- suggest that crashes are more likely if visibility is reduced," 'Which? Car' editor Richard Headland said.
He added: "This is of particular concern for more vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. Some models that score well for visibility in our tests also achieve good crash-test results, showing it is perfectly possible to design safe cars with good visibility."
The cars tested are assessed in a specially designed visibility rig using lasers, digital cameras and computer software to rate visibility from the driver's eye position. Technicians pan a full 360 degrees around the interior. In doing so they can log how much of the view is clear and how much is obstructive.