Don’t cry for Kanye’s crashed Lambo -- or your small SUV

Don’t know why, but Thursday turned into car crash day.

Perhaps it was because, in between reading about one White House scandal or another, I was distracted by this intriguing headline on The Times’ homepage: “Kim Kardashian’s gate closes on Kanye West’s $750K Lamborghini.”

Go ahead, click on it -- you know you want to, even though you’ll hate yourself in the morning. Partly it’s because of the perfect storm of names involved: Kim, Kanye, Lambo (if only Khloe had been driving!). But partly it’s because like moths to a flame, we can’t help ourselves: We are fascinated by car crashes. And we’re doubly fascinated when the sheet metal involved is very expensive sheet metal.

Why, there’s an entire website devoted to such nonsense: Because there’s nothing quite like viewing a flattened Ferrari or a junked Jag to make your day.


Seeing Kanye’s Lamborghini Aventador get munched by a driveway gate reminded me of a joke a friend sent me the other day (honest, boss, I read it after all my work was finished): A husband comes home to find his wife dressed in fetching attire. “Want to see $20 all wrinkled and folded?” she purrs, pulling a bill from her cleavage. “Wow,” he says. “OK, want to see $60,000 all wrinkled and folded?” she asks her now intrigued husband. “You bet!” he says. “Then go look in the garage,” she sighs.

I digress.

The other car crash story that caught my eye Thursday was this one: “Most compact SUVs score poorly on new front-end collision test.”

Why? Because, although I am actually in the market for a Kanyesque ride -- or will be, as soon as my wealth acquisition plan, also known as buying a Powerball ticket, pays off -- for now I’m making do with one of these aforementioned compact SUVs.

So when I read this -- “Most compact sport-utility vehicles scored poorly on an insurance industry test that measures damage from front-end collisions with fixed objects such as a tree or pole” -- it made me a tad nervous, knowing that my better half is tooling around town in a potential deathtrap.

Except, well, car safety now is a matter of degrees. Yes, as the story says, these designs -- part of a market segment that’s increasingly popular, at least in part because of fuel economy factors -- fared poorly in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s test. As my colleague Jerry Hirsch writes:

The IIHS devised the new “overlap” crash test because these kinds of front-corner impact crashes account for about 24% of the serious injuries and deaths in frontal crashes….

In the test, 25% of a vehicle’s front end on the driver side strikes a 5-foot-tall rigid barrier at 40 mph. Although most new autos do well in federal safety tests of a full-width front-end crash, they often do poorly in the insurance group’s overlap crash test. That’s because such an impact tends to miss the vehicle’s primary structures designed to manage crash energy.

But here’s the thing. Today’s cars are a quantum leap, safety wise, from the autos of my youth. The compact SUV my wife drives has multiple airbags, three-point inertial reel seat belts, antilock brakes, safety glass, a low-tire-pressure alert system, a collapsible steering column, reinforced door beams, crush zones -- heck, it even has warning lights in the mirrors and an audible warning system to tell you when someone’s in your blind spot. All in a car that cost well under $30,000.

Now, if you’re old enough, you may remember when the carmakers -- and some civil libertarians -- howled about the government regulations that created the rules for many of these features. Safety didn’t sell, the automakers said. The government can’t force me to wear a seat belt, the civil libertarians cried.

Think how far we’ve come. Thousands of Americans are alive today thanks to these safety advances, and the regulations that required them. And now, instead of howling about the regulations, we howl when the automakers aren’t keeping up with the rapidly changing demands for even greater safety.

Oh, and for those who resisted clicking earlier, TMZ says a detailer was dispatched to buff out the damage to Kanye’s car.


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