On your radio show recently I heard you say you...

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Mar 01, 2005

Dear Tom and Ray:

On your radio show recently, I heard you say you liked a car called the Scion xB, but couldn't recommend it because it was missing some crucial safety features. Then I read this in an e-mail newsletter sent out by folk singers Pete and Maura Kennedy. Perhaps it'll make you change your mind?

"Early Monday morning, Pete and I had a serious auto accident. ... There weren't any other cars on the road -- a very quiet night. When all of a sudden, a car came speeding like mad up the same lane we were in (the middle). Pete saw it coming in the rear-view (he was driving), and I heard it. It sounded like a train. Pete said, 'Hold on, this guy is coming fast.' He couldn't really change lanes, just grip the wheel and hope the guy got around us fast. The driver of the other car did one of those video-game-like moves where he got right up behind us, jerked his steering wheel to the left to pass, and then jerked the wheel right again immediately after passing us to get back in our lane. Unfortunately, he hit us on the way back into our lane. We were going 65, and we think he was going somewhere between 100 and 110 mph. We went flying into the median strip and started somersaulting. We rolled at least once on top of the guardrail. I think we're alive today because our car (Scion xB) has roll bars and state-of-the-art safety features. If it didn't, the car would have probably been sliced in two, and us with it. We were also both wearing our seat belts. The air bags deployed, and we couldn't see anything outside the car as we rolled across the median strip. ... As we crashed and rolled, we kept expecting to cross into the truck lanes beyond the median and get hit by one of the big rigs. As the car was spinning, we kept thinking, 'We're going to die now' ... just kept waiting for the lights to go out. When the car came to a stop, we smelled the smoke from the air bags and thought the car was on fire. My door wouldn't open, and I tried to kick it open but we got out Pete's door, and we found that we were still in the median. Our car had come to a rest upright. The other car was also in the median, still upside down, with at least two people trapped inside. The EMTs told us that there were no fatalities, but that the other carload were hurting -- serious back injuries. They had to be cut out of the vehicle. I don't have any idea why they were driving like they were. They had no reason to pass us in the manner that they did. ... Our insurance finds us 0 percent at fault. We spent the rest of the day in and out of the hospital, getting checked up. We're pretty exhausted now, as you can imagine, but we're OK, and very happy to be alive, the two of us! ... We have traveled half a million miles together by car since we started playing music together 11 years ago. We intend to go at least another half a million more! -- Pete and Maura Kennedy"

Thanks. -- Paul

RAY: Well, first of all, we're thrilled to hear that nobody was killed. And that after they treat the speeding driver for his back injury, they'll be able to give him a nuclear dope-slap and take away his license.

TOM: We hate hearing about accidents like this. They aren't caused by bad weather, poor road conditions or vehicle failure; they're caused by jerks. Some guy (usually a guy) who says, "Hey fellas, watch this!"

RAY: The reason we're not recommending the Scion xB yet is because it doesn't come with side-impact air bags. In the kind of accident these folks had -- a rollover -- the structure of the roof did its job, and kept the vehicle from collapsing around them. That's great. The seatbelts (very important!) kept them in their seats, so the rest of the safety features -- like the front air bags -- could also do their jobs.

TOM: But if they had been in another kind of accident -- if they had been hit in the side by a fast-moving vehicle, or if they had skidded and slid sideways into a tree or telephone pole -- the intrusion into the side of the car could very well have killed them.

RAY: Since this vehicle is marketed to kids and young people, who tend to have lots of accidents, we think it's especially important that it have every reasonable safety feature available. And side air bags have been proven to save lives.

TOM: We have no problem with Toyota (which makes Scion) making a cheap, little car and selling it to kids. In fact, we like the xB, and had fun driving it. We just want it to be safer. So until it offers side-impact air bags, no kid of mine will be driving around in a Scion xB.

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