Is it safe to drive an older model vehicle? Are older vehicles more susceptible to mechanical failures that can cause accidents and injuries? The average age of passenger cars and light trucks that Americans drive is currently 11.6 years old. The age of vehicles being driven has risen steadily since 1995 due in part to advances in vehicle design and construction. However, while the lifespan of vehicles is increasing, that doesn't mean all older vehicles remain safe to drive. Research conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that the safety of older vehicles is something drivers need to be aware of. The older the vehicle, the more likely the driver is to die in an automobile accident.
In 2013, NHTSA research showed that drivers operating vehicles manufactured between 2003-2007 were 20% more likely to suffer a fatal injury than a driver operating a vehicle that was less than three years old. This increased to 10% greater likelihood for vehicles four to seven years old, and 19% for vehicles that were between eight and eleven years old. For cars nearing "classic" status, the decreased safety of older vehicles resulted in a 71% greater likelihood of suffering a fatality for a driver operating a vehicle that was 18 years or older.
There are many reasons that older vehicles present greater safety hazards for drivers and their passengers than those in newer model vehicles. Among these are advancements in technology that older vehicles simply don't have. Features such as side airbags, electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, collision avoidance systems, seatbelt load limiters, etc., are not present on many older vehicles. These safety advancements can provide considerable protection in automobile accidents while reducing injury and fatality risk. The National Institute of Health credits newer model vehicles with reducing overall fatality rates. Their research shows that the safety features and design of newer vehicles has a significant impact on reducing injury and fatality rates for all age demographics.
Another reason older vehicles pose a greater risk is the age of the components of the vehicle and their susceptibility to wear and tear. Brake, transmission, and steering systems that are not well maintained or replaced regularly can fail and cause an automobile accident. Poor maintenance and extensive usage can make the safety of older vehicles even more perilous.
There is one major caveat to the studies that highlight the safety of newer vehicles when compared to older vehicles. Drivers who choose not to wear their seatbelt lose much of the safety benefits of driving a newer vehicle. Both the NHTSA and NIH data shows that drivers who chose not to buckle up are at significant risk of injury or death regardless of vehicle age. Data provided by the CDC showed that more than half of the 22,441 automobile accident fatalities in 2015 were not wearing a seatbelt at the time of their accident. The data also showed that airbags bolster the effectiveness of seatbelts, but are not a substitute for choosing not to wear a seatbelt.
Brad Pistotnik Law assists clients in Garden City, Wichita, Topeka, Liberal, Dodge City, Kinsley, Ulysses, Goodland, Topeka, Kansas City, Dodge City, and other regions of Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Missouri and Illinois who are injured in automobile accidents. Whether the vehicle was brand new or a classic, individuals who are injured and survivors of those who suffer wrongful deaths can pursue compensation to cover their medical expenses, lost wages, loss of quality of life, and many other expenses resulting from the crash.
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