Ross, Patel, and Wenzel reply: These two thoughtful letters illustrate the importance of myriad details of vehicle design to dangers and safety in traffic. The height of the lights of most SUVs and trucks, which temporarily blind car drivers at night, is a significant risk (which has been crudely quantified in fatality statistics as around 100 per year). Ian Halliday’s comments about daytime running lights are indirectly supported by the impressive fatality reductions that are being achieved in Canada (see figure 2 of our article). Those reductions should inspire Americans to question the less-than-impressive claims of success made for US traffic safety programs.
Vehicle design is critical to traffic safety. Specific design features, such as the heights of car seats versus the heights of “truck” fronts, where the trucks are merely serving as car substitutes, are among the most important issues for safety design. Differences in vehicle structures are important; but as we argued in our article, the laws of physics do not imply that vehicle mass, as such, is a safety feature. Observation suggests it is relatively unimportant in today’s fleet.