Are Newer Cars Safer?

With new vehicles rolling out on an annual basis, manufacturers are continually making changes for the better. One might ask, however, do these changes really make a difference? Well, for starters, up until the mid-1960’s, seatbelts and padded dashboards were considered innovative. Compared to today’s safety systems that are all the rage, have the changes been significant?

That was the question asked by the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP), an independent vehicle safety commission for Australia and New Zealand. They decided to put a 1998 Toyota Corolla against a 2015 Corolla in a small-overlap, head-on crash test.

The video, provided by Road and Track, speaks for itself. Even though the 1998 model had been crash-tested and was once considered top of the line, it didn’t hold a candle to the 2015 model. The two collided at around 40 miles per hour. While the 2015 Toyota’s passenger compartments were mostly intact, the 1998 model was mangled.

According to the ANCAP, “The older car sustained catastrophic structural failure with dummy readings showing an extremely high risk of serious head, chest and leg injury to the driver. It achieved a score of just 0.40 points out of 16- zero stars.” On the contrary, the 2015 model scored 12.93 out of 16 points, earning a five-star rating.

This test shows an unforeseen consequence of having older cars still on the road systems. ANCAP’s Chief Executive Officer James Goodwin says, “It is unfortunate we tend to see our most at-risk drivers- the young and inexperienced, as well as the elderly and frailer- in the most at-risk vehicles.”

The lifespan of older cars is getting longer, some still running for as many as 20 years on a daily basis. With this sort of lifespan, the proportion of old cars on the road is continually increasing. According to ANCAP, cars built before 2000 account for 20 percent of vehicles on Australia’s roads, but they are involved in 33 percent of fatal crashes.

In the United States, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is responsible or testing any vehicle sold in the country. They also use a five-star rating system to check the safety of a vehicle. This is done by performing a series of crash tests, including a frontal crash test, a side barrier crash test, and a side pole crash test. After each crash test, the damage to the vehicle and the injuries to the crash test dummies are analyzed. The test rating depends on how well the safety features reacted to the impending impact or the impact itself, and how severely injured the crash test dummies were.

According to Cordisco Saile, there are two kinds of technologies used today that provide more safety: crash avoidance and crash protection. The more crash avoidance or protection technologies the car has, the safer the passengers will be in the event of an accident. It is important to consider both the safety rating and the equipped safety technology when looking for a new vehicle.