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Cars: Newer, regulated and safer for Indianans

People in Indiana may believe that newer can be better when it comes to cars, and at least one study agrees. A recent study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that newer vehicles suffered substantially fewer car accidents than older models. The NHTSA study also indicated that the severity of an occupant's injuries increased with the age of the vehicle.

The age of the vehicles had a considerable effect on the results. In 2013 to 2017 model vehicles, 26 percent of the occupants died in an auto accident. However, 55 percent of occupants died in collisions involving vehicles built before 1985.

Fatality rates consistently decreased with the age of the model year. Vehicles built from 2008 though 2012 had a 31 percent fatality rate; 2003 through 2007 was 36 percent; 1998 through 2002 was 42 percent; 1993 through 1997 was 46 percent; and, 1985 through 1992 was 53 percent.

Better safety performance may be attributed to increased vehicle weight. Over the last 15 years, cars became heavier and have a greater chance of withstanding a crash or protecting occupants in crashes with trucks and other larger vehicles. Better structural reinforcement may be another positive attribute. The popularity of sports utilities vehicles also increased the average weight of passenger vehicles.

Better safety systems also led to better safety performance, according to the NHTSA. However, some safety proponents disagree with the NHTSA's assessment that cameras, parking assistance, collision warning systems and other driver assisted technologies improve safety. Critics cite research that drivers have an unreasonably high level of trust in these systems. Despite being designed to provide an additional level of safety, their use can reduce skills and cause driver inattention. Safety advocates also claim that the NHTSA did not consider that many drivers do not understand how assisted systems work. They cited concerns that cybersecurity has not been addressed, because these systems could be vulnerable to hacking.

While better safety features and construction of vehicles may lower the risk of an accident, motorists and passengers still face the risk of injury from a negligent or reckless driver. When a person is injured in an accident caused by another motorist, they may want to seek the advice needed to decide what options to take.

Source: The Truth About Cars, "NHTSA study confirms new cars are safer, regulations not a scam," Matt Posky, May 11, 2018

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