An investigation into the safety risks of light weight vehicles

In the course of this research the level of safety of so-called light weight vehicles (LWV) was investigated and assessed. The focus falls on vehicles featuring car-like closed occupant cells.

The theoretical observations made on the basis of crash tests performed and first evaluations of accident data show that a passenger car look-alike light weight vehicle with an empty weight of below 350 kg and moving at 45 km/h holds a considerable safety risk. A collision at mere “city speed” exposes the driver to a much higher risk of suffering an injury. The prescribed weight restrictions do not as such make the use of modern safety measures and sufficiently rigid chassis possible. Additionally the stricter safety requirements as developed in respect of normal passenger cars over decades and constantly being optimised, do not exist.

In Germany the likelihood of youths changing from mopeds to light weight vehicles in the near future is rated as being low given the “elderly people” image of the latter. Against the background of the extremely high accident risk of “juvenile drivers” in relation to the limited active- and practically absent passive safety offered by light weight vehicles, the age restriction for driving light weight vehicles should be increased to 18 years.

Furthermore it is not foreseen that the number of light weight vehicles in Europe will undergo mentionable growth. However it should be keep in mind that vehicle concepts of this kind will gain in attractiveness against the background of increasing traffic density in congested urban areas and the climate debate – not only for older users.

It is however necessary to increase the safety level of light weight vehicles even for the small group of road users. In this respect an effective point of departure could be complex technical solutions or an increase in the kerb weight. Simultaneously a moderate increase in the maximum permissible speed to approx. 55 km/h and a moderate increase in engine capacity could make a contribution to improving the active safety. With these measures passive safety could be enhanced on the one hand, and a integration into the “easy flow” of urban traffic assured on the other hand.