Fake ‘smart car’ crash picture

Update 9/17/2009: Snopes finally debunked this photo after I published this blog post. The picture is real, but the car is a Ford Escape, not a smart car! And the crash only nailed one side of the vehicle so the driver survived and was discharged from the hospital. Myth busted!

I was alarmed when this picture of a “smart car crash” with two trucks started popping up all over Twitter with captions like “can you find the smart car?”

 Fake smart car crash picture

The so-called "smart car wreck" doesn't actually involve a smart car at all!

Momentarily I flinched, imagining myself in my little smart car in the same accident. But upon closer inspection, the image turns out to be a fake… or not of a smart car at all!

First I went back to look for blood around the wreckage. You usually don’t see blood in car crash pictures, but what can I say, I have a morbid curiosity. But there was something missing from the scene: a tell-tale spray of shattered plastic! All the body panels of a smart car are made of plastic, not metal, so when a smart car hits something at high speed, the body panels disintegrate into a spray of chips as this smart car crash test video demonstrates:

(Like watching a piano being hurled by a trebuchet, isnt’ it? Gorgeous.)

As you can see, smart car crashes are very, very messy. The car in the circulated photo is all metal. The only reason it’s being touted as as a picture of a smart car is because of the one small wheel in the wreckage. But as keen observer Soup_Monger pointed out in a forum, “That’s not a smart car in the accident photo… it has 5 bolt wheels…. and a lot more metal. Looks like another email joke.” People at smartcarofamerica.com’s forums concur that the odd wheels and lack of plastic debris mean that the car is not a smart car.

Additionally, the photo looks shopped to me. It looks like someone took a picture of an accident where two gravel trucks that had bumped into each other and pasted in wreckage from a car compacting facility.

  • Notice that the edges where the wreck meets the trucks are blurred and darkened (to hide seams), especially on the red truck, and that there is a noticeable lack of debris that you would expect in an accident like this.
  • The one visible wheel blurs into the pavement indistinguishably.
  • The car looks like it was crushed in a compactor, not at high speed, which would have smashed the it, not folded it neatly.
  • The damp spot under the so-called “smart car” is concurrent with fluid leaking from a cracked radiator caused by the red truck slamming into the truck in front of it at moderate speed.
  • The minimal damage done to both trucks suggests a slow impact that wouldn’t have had the energy needed to demolish the smart car’s tridion safety cell, the smart’s roll cage. In the video above, even slamming into solid concrete at 70 miles per hour only lightly bent one arm of the cage.

You would be surprised what people with too much time on their hands will do with a copy of Photoshop. (I should know–I work with it every day!)

So, please, look closely before you let someone else tell you what you are seeing. And remember, if this were a real wreck, not even an SUV would have made it out of there unscathed. So drive safely, no matter what size your vehicle is!


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