Older Cars Four Times More Deadly Than Newer Models, Study Says

Jun 2017

Buying your teen an older car? A new study may give you reason to reassess.

Researchers in Australia looked at how older-model cars (those made before 2000) stand up to the newer ones. Of course it stands to reason that even all else identical, any newer car would be safer than an older one with more miles an wear. But beyond that, newer models come with the benefit of years of engineering technology advancement and increased safety features like forward collision warning and rearview cameras.

But even beyond that, researchers say, there is structural integrity. In a test between a 1998 Toyota Corolla and its 2015 counterpart, the results weren’t even close. The ANCAP showed how the older vehicle was quickly reduced to a crumpled heap, the front wheel smashed inside the front cabin, the door frame collapsed and the roof buckled. Meanwhile, the front cabin of the newer vehicle was largely intact. The door could still be opened.

While the newer model occupant would likely have survived unscathed, the driver of the older car would have either died or suffered severe traumatic injuries to the brain, chest and legs. It should be noted the older vehicle didn’t have airbags (which were mandated standard in the U.S. by that time, but not in Australia or New Zealand), though researchers concluded in this particular case, that wouldn’t have made a huge difference.

By today’s standards, that older model car – just 17 years older than the newer one –  would receive a zero-star safety rating, with the 2015 model would get 5 out of 5 stars.

Older Cars Overrepresented in Fatal Crashes

The data underscores what we already know about fatal car accidents in Buffalo and elsewhere: The older the car, the more likely it is to be involved in a fatal crash. This is especially concerning when we consider that older cars are more likely to be driven by two of the most vulnerable motorists: Teenagers and elderly drivers.

Research published in a 2014 issue of the journal Injury Prevention revealed more than half of teens killed in crashes between 2008 and 2012 were in vehicles that were 11 years or older. Eighty-two percent of those who died were in vehicles that were at least 6-years-old.

The Australian researchers found that while older cars represented roughly 20 percent of cars on the road, they account for 33 percent of fatal crashes. In comparison, newer model cars account for 31 percent of cars on the road, yet are involved in 13 percent of fatal crashes.

Recovering Damages

Because older cars are more likely to be involved in crashes that are fatal or life-threatening, it’s imperative that drivers keep them well-maintained and properly insured. Although maintenance isn’t likely to improve the structural integrity of your older car, it can likely help to make sure your risk isn’t higher. Consider too that if some improper vehicle maintenance plays a role in the crash, you could be deemed liable, or at least comparatively negligent. (In New York, N.Y. C.P.L.R. § 1411 holds that comparative negligence won’t bar recovery for damages, but it can proportionately diminish the amount to which you are entitled).

You may also want to consider higher-than-average UM/ UIM (uninsured/ underinsured) motorist coverage. Such coverage isn’t required under New York law, but especially for drivers of older cars, it’s recommended.

If you or your teen driver suffer injury Buffalo car accident, our injury lawyers will work to help you identify every viable avenue for compensation.

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