That just happened.
Two vehicles tried to occupy the same space at the same time, and our 2012 Mini John Cooper Works Coupe was one of them. I was behind the wheel, instantaneously filled with regret and frustration. Just a fraction of a second or a few inches and I would be driving away, a little shaken perhaps, instead of waiting for the police and a wrecker to come clear up the scene.
But it could have been a lot worse. I had no passengers in the Mini, and the driver of the other vehicle, a 2006 BMW X5, was alone, too. It was a relatively low-speed collision, so neither of us was injured even though both vehicles sustained some significant damage.
Consumer Reports says safety is the most important factor in a new car purchase. An accident is certainly a reminder of the importance of protecting yourself and your passengers in an accident. But all modern vehicles offer unprecedented safety, right? Last year, the number of vehicles awarded the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s highest rating more than doubled even though the criteria were tougher than ever.
It is true that passenger cars and trucks are safer than ever. But people will still be injured and killed in accidents, and individuals and insurance companies will still be responsible for the costly damage that results. Even the safest vehicles cannot prevent all crashes or promise total protection in the event of a collision. Choosing the right one can narrow the chances and minimize damage.
To do so, a vehicle needs not only active safety equipment like airbags, features that help in the event of an accident. Passive safety is important too. Strong handling and braking ability and good visibility can help a driver to avoid a collision altogether.
The Mini Coupe and this X5 SUV, both BMW products, offer excellent handling and brakes, but neither driver saw this collision coming. Rearward visibility in the Mini is poor, but an upright seating position and tight cabin translate to good forward visibility. I saw the X5, but it is possible that the Mini’s diminutive size hid my vehicle from view in heavy traffic. A crash inevitable, we had to rely on these vehicles’ active safety features.
Both vehicles fared well, as did both drivers. The front bumper cover and hood of the Mini absorbed the impact from the much larger X5, which sustained similar damage. The Mini’s airbag did not deploy, but the seatbelt and the Mini’s sporty bolstered seats prevented any severe motion from the impact. The X5’s airbag deployed. Though neither of us was seriously injured, minor soreness in my lower back persisted for half a day.
"At least you’re okay. It could have been worse." In the immediate moments after the accident, these words meant to comfort can be difficult to hear. It could have been worse, but it could have not happened at all. After a few days of reflection though, their truth sinks in. Accidents happen – better to have a minor one than a severe one. That no one was injured in this particular collision reflects the strong safety characteristics of these vehicles. I cannot change the past, but I can be thankful that these two vehicles protected their occupants in the violence of a crash.
Our long-term Mini JCW Coupe is currently being repaired by Global Imports MINI in North Atlanta. We anxiously await its return to the Autotrader.com garage.