Driving has always been dangerous, but passenger vehicles have grown remarkably safer in recent years. The addition of advanced technology and safety features like electronic stability control, lane detection, rear view cameras and forward collision warnings have raised the bar for safety ratings. Even the vehicle frames are better designed and able to withstand higher-force impact. In fact, the advances have been so stark that in less than two decades, the vehicles of the late 1990s and early aughts have become virtually obsolete in terms of protections in an Orlando car accident.
We saw this recently in a crash test conducted by researchers from Australia and New Zealand's ANCAP (Australasian New Car Assessment Program), an independent vehicle safety commission. In one video, we see how a 1998 Toyota Corolla fares against a 2015 Corolla in a small-overlap, head-on collision. The results: Not well.
In fact, the driver of the older vehicle likely would have been killed, as the passenger cabin had completely crumpled, becoming a practically unrecognizable mass of tangled metal. The newer model, meanwhile, still had a passenger cabin intact. The door could still be opened and the driver likely would have survived without any major - or at least no life-threatening - injuries.
This type of collision is increasingly of great concern given that the average age of light vehicles in the U.S., according to analysis by IHS Markit, is 11.6 years - up from 9.6 years in 2002. Automotive News reports that by 2021, the number of vehicles 16 or older will spike by 30 percent to 81 million. The number of vehicles over the age of 25, meanwhile, will increase to approximately 20 million total.
Those most likely to drive these older vehicles are teens and the elderly - two of the most vulnerable groups of drivers.
Why Older Cars Can't Keep Pace
Numerous studies have shown that vehicle incompatibility is a primary factor of fatal injuries in car-to-car accidents. Part of this, of course, has to do with the proliferation of more sport utility vehicles and light trucks, which yield a disproportionate impact when involved in crashes with passenger cars. However, it also has to do with the fact that because people are keeping their vehicles longer, older cars are increasingly facing newer, more well-designed vehicles in collisions. The NHTSA recently posited the notion of a more comprehensive approach to studying the physics of vehicle compatibility - including having vehicle manufacturers work together to establish common design rules.
The ANCAP study revealed that when the older model vehicle in its research was held up to modern design standard, it was given a 0 out of 5-star rating. The newer model Corolla, meanwhile, had a five-star rating. After crunching some additional numbers, researchers determined older model vehicle occupants (those in cars built prior to 2000) are four times as likely to die in a collision as those in newer model vehicles manufactured after 2011.
Newer models have the benefit of decades' more engineering technological advancements, as well as regulatory framework that requires an increasing number of protections to come standard with each vehicle.
Still, older vehicles are lasting longer than ever before, which strips motorists of some incentive to buy new vehicles. Orlando car accident attorneys recognize that crashes involving older vehicles may necessitate a closer look at the effectiveness of repair shop maintenance and service. These facilities might be liable if their work falls short, resulting in an issue or defect that caused or contributed to a crash.
Also, because older vehicles provide less protection than newer vehicles, it may be worthwhile for motorists driving them to secure higher levels of insurance coverage - particularly UM/ UIM coverage, which will bolster the available insurance coverage in the event the other driver lacks adequate insurance.