Small Car Rescue Challenges - Part 1

SUBJECT: Small Car Rescue Challenges -- Part 1 Topic: 2008 Smart Fortwo OBJECTIVE: Given information about the 2008 Smart Fortwo vehicle, rescuers will be able to explain the safety features of the vehicle and how they influence medical and...


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SUBJECT:

Topic: 2008 Smart Fortwo

OBJECTIVE: Given information about the 2008 Smart Fortwo vehicle, rescuers will be able to explain the safety features of the vehicle and how they influence medical and rescue activities at a crash scene.

TASK: The rescue team shall list and describe the design features and safety systems of the Smart Fortwo and explain the influence each feature or design has on anticipated fire, safety, medical, or extrication procedures at a Smart car incident.

The challenges presented by small vehicles involved in collisions have always been with us as rescuers. A new trend to market small, fuel-efficient vehicles in the U.S. warrants a new look at small car rescue challenges.

In this first part of our series, we will examine the 2008 DaimlerChrysler Smart Fortwo; the smallest vehicle sold in the U.S. The Fortwo is classified as a microcar, meaning it's even smaller than minicars such as the BMW Mini Cooper. Besides the Mini Cooper, this vehicle will compete against several other new subcompacts recently introduced into the U.S. market; the Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris, for example.

The Smart Fortwo arrived in the U.S. in January 2008. It is available as a hardtop or a convertible. The hardtop may sport an optional, fixed-glass sunroof.

The tiny 1,800-pound Smart For-two is manufactured in France. Around 20,000 Smarts a year will be sold in the U.S. At eight feet, 10 inches (106 inches) in length and only five feet, one inch (61.4 inches) in height, it's more than three feet shorter and almost 700 pounds lighter than the BMW Mini Cooper. It only takes up half of a parking space.

The Fortwo's 1.0-liter, three-cylinder engine is mounted under the trunk floor, just in front of the rear axle. It provides power for the rear wheel-drive vehicle.

Smart Safety Features

All Smart Fortwo models are equipped with driver and passenger dual-stage frontal airbags, seat-mounted side airbags and padded knee protectors. The side airbags are the larger, head-thorax design. The passenger side-impact airbag will not deploy if that seat is unoccupied. A section of the steering column shaft near the instrument panel will collapse in the event of a serious frontal collision.

The car has a seating capacity of two people, both in bucket seats. The passenger seat has the occupant-sensing deactivation feature that turns the passenger frontal airbag off when the seat is unoccupied. The passenger seat is mounted to the floorboard slightly more rearward than the driver's seat to optimize shoulder room. The passenger seat is also a fold-flat design.

Both seatbelts are equipped with pretensioners and have a special force-limiting design. As a frontal crash occurs for example, the pretensioners fire and pull slack out of the seatbelt system. As the deceleration continues, the force-limiting seatbelt feature carefully releases the snug belt before too much pressure is exerted on the occupant's chest. EMS responders might see a ragged or fuzzy section of the seatbelt indicating that the patient has undergone high-impact force energy, enough to activate the force-limiting feature. With such a short front end and minimal crumple zone distance, occupant protection through frontal airbags and the seatbelt force-limiting feature are very important.

Hazard Control

When the decision is made to shut down the vehicle's 12-volt electrical system, you need to already know where the battery is located. You'd never find it within a realistic timeframe if you had to blindly search for it. The 12-volt battery is essentially hidden beneath the floorpan under the front passenger's feet. The carpet has to be moved to reveal the trap door that covers the battery. The top of the battery sits just below floor level. Consider this: You have to be inside the vehicle before you're actually able to shut down the electrical system. Add a jammed door and a trapped front passenger and you can see how complex something as fundamental as electrical-system shutdown will be with this vehicle.

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