Yesterday we drove Highway 1 in California from San Simeon to Monterey. This is the most beautiful segment of the most beautiful road in America, but one thing started driving me crazy:
One in ten cars that passed in the opposite direction was either a red convertible Camaro or Mustang. That’s no exaggeration. I don’t know if there’s either a rental place that specializes in outfitting people with red convertibles or if people with red convertibles just like driving the 1, but it got to the point of being ridiculous. Every minute or two someone in the family announced the sighting of yet another convertible Mustang.
Without question, we have entered the season of convertibles. Warm weather brings dropped tops, messy hair, sunburned foreheads, and sun-bleached interiors.
I can’t blame the drivers on the 1 for their car choices. I spent the last few days touring Los Angeles in a MINI Cooper S convertible. I know, it’s not the most impressive of convertibles, but it offered plenty of fun in the California sun.
Convertibles are definitely fun, but they can also be more dangerous than their hardtop cousins.
What are some risks of owning a convertible?
The risk of a roll-over accident in a convertible is minimal, since the vast majority of them are sports cars with a low center of gravity. Any car, however, can roll over in the right circumstances. If you’re in a convertible when it happens, your odds of survival are considerably less than in a hardtop.
The Cooper S had a safety feature that I really liked. In the event of a roll-over accident, the roll bar, located behind the rear passenger seat, rises to give extra protection to the people inside. That should be a standard feature on all convertibles as far as I’m concerned.
Other cars include technology to minimize the risk of rolling the car in the first place, such as electronic stability control. Plenty of airbags in modern cars help protect occupants as well.
No convertible will be as safe as its hardtop counterparts, though. The added rigidity of an immobile roof provides much stronger protection and gives additional strength to the car’s body in case of a crash.
Even with the safety risk that comes with driving a convertible, the thrill and freedom of open-air driving is an unforgettable experience everyone should experience.
Even if it’s in a red Mustang on California Highway 1.
Is driving a convertible worth the safety risk? If you think it is, check our list of the 10 Best Convertibles for All Seasons.
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Thom Moore says
Yes, I prefer a low vehicle with a correspondingly lower potential for rollover under any given circumstances, which is the basis for my distaste for SUVs or pickup trucks. As you note, however, any vehicle can roll over under the wrong circumstances, such as when the wheels meet a hard curbing or soft dirt while spinning sideways. Some convertibles, like my Mazda MX-5, have fixed rollover bars or loops that hide behind the seating headrests. However, it seems that more capable convertible protection is a requirement imposed by racing clubs, where rollovers are much more likely to occur than in normal driving. I guess the message here is not to drive as if you were racing when driving normally!
Vickie Prince says
What about hard top convertibles vs soft top? Are they safer?