Vintage cars may be widely-admired, but we all know well they can't keep pace with the crashworthiness of modern vehicles. But what many drivers don't realize is that vehicles from even 10-to-20 years ago fail spectacularly when it comes to the car accident standards of current models.
This point was underscored in a recent test conducted by the ANCAP - Australasian New Car Assessment Program - a group of independent vehicle safety researchers from Australia and New Zealand. In one striking video, the group compares a 2015 Toyota Corolla with its 1998 counterpart. The two vehicles were set up to collide in a small-overlap, head-on collision with both vehicles traveling about 40 mph.
The result was stunning. While the older model vehicle is a crumpled, mangled mess of metal and glass, the newer model is still largely intact. The slow-motion footage from inside the cabins shows that while the newer-model front seat passenger would have sustained some injuries, the passenger in the older-model car likely would have died. Images show the head striking hard against both the steering wheel and the dashboard, meaning even if they did survive, they would suffer severe head injuries, chest injuries and leg injuries.
Older Models, Lower Safety Standards
Although U.S. vehicles in 1998 all came equipped standard with both driver and front passenger airbags, as it was mandatory for vehicles at that time, the same was not true of vehicles in New Zealand and Australia. Nonetheless, as researchers noted, it would not have likely made a significant difference. The nature of the impact would likely have meant an airbag wouldn't have made a significant difference in this particular scenario.
However, as our car accident attorneys in San Fernando Valley understand it, the real danger was the structural deficiencies that resulted in significant encroachment of material into the cabin of the vehicle. Researchers described this as "catastrophic structural failure."
When the older-model vehicle was rated by today's vehicle crashworthiness standards, it received a 0.40 out of a total 16 points, which amounted to zero out of five stars. Meanwhile, the 2015-model year vehicle received nearly 13 points out of 16, for a rating of five stars.
Although it makes sense that newer cars would be better equipped to withstand serious collisions, give the fact they have the advantage of decades more engineering improvement and technology, it remains a major concern because many of these older vehicles are still in use on our roads. Worse, those drivers who tend to be the most vulnerable - young teens and frail elderly - are most likely to be driving the cars that are the least safe.
Proper Maintenance of Older Cars
Researchers say motorists should take this into account when weighing how long to keep their older car. Motor vehicles are certainly big investments, but safety shouldn't be a luxury. Investment in a newer-model vehicle is an investment in safety.
In light of this research, owners of older-model vehicles have a special responsibility to ensure their vehicles are properly-maintained and don't further contribute to the potential risk. This includes:
- Repair of cracked windshields;
- Properly-working lights and wipers;
- Repair of faulty or worn brakes and brake pads;
- Replacement of balding tires.
California recognizes a standard of pure comparative fault in injury law, meaning one's own fault will proportionately reduce the damages awarded. In other words, if negligent maintenance of a vehicle contributed in any way to a crash, it could be grounds to assert a comparative fault reduction of damages.
If you have been injured in an a San Fernando Valley car accident, we will work to identify all possible defendants to help you maximize your compensation.