Logic tells us that with the passing of time we, as consumers, are benefiting from design improvements and technological advancements – no matter what the product. Take the iPhone for example. I’m sure most will attest the iPhone 7 is a vast improvement on, say, the iPhone 4. So why is there still the misconception that older, more ‘sturdily’ built cars are safer?
I am sure you’ve heard it – that the old XC Falcon or 80 Series Landcruiser is far safer than the cars of today; they’re bigger, heavier, more solidly built. But you don’t have to cast your mind back even that far.
Our latest analysis data shows a clear link between the age of a car and occupant fatalities, which bucks the above misconception.
The average age of registered passenger vehicles and SUVs in Australia is 9.8 years. The average age of vehicles involved in fatal crashes, however, stands at 12.5 years. The oldest vehicles (built 1999 or earlier) account for 20 per cent of the vehicle fleet but were involved in 36 per cent of fatalities. The newest vehicles (built 2010 to 2015) account for 31 per cent of the vehicle fleet but were involved in 11 per cent of fatalities.
The numbers speak for themselves. Newer cars are safer.
The improvements in vehicle safety over the past two decades can be claimed almost exclusively as a result of ANCAP influence in encouraging vehicle brands to manufacture safer cars and subsequent consumer uptake. With our national road toll rising rather than falling, the challenge today is to accelerate the uptake of newer, safer cars and, as a result, drive down the average fleet age and number of lives lost.
This challenge also holds true when we consider another misconception – this time, one from the other end of the spectrum – that ‘all cars are now safe’. This is somewhat true if we consider it is now common for new vehicle models to attain the maximum 5 star ANCAP safety rating. But this misconception looks at the fleet with tunnel vision. It doesn’t take into account the registered vehicle fleet as a whole.
The problem is the age of the fleet. We must consider ways to incentivise the purchase of newer, safer vehicles.
It is the responsibility of a wide range of organisations and industries to work to reduce the level of road trauma. Incentives that encourage more swift advancements in vehicle safety technology will accelerate this.
To encourage the sale of newer safer cars, vehicle brands, dealerships and financiers should look to offer reduced interest rates or special loans for those with lower incomes and vulnerable road users such as inexperienced drivers or the elderly. Insurers should offer reduced premiums; after all, much of the financial burden of road trauma is carried by insurers and road authorities should provide reduced registration charges.
Another consideration at Dealer level is to have older trade-ins scrapped rather than resold.
With the knowledge that older cars are involved in the greatest number of fatal crashes, we need to encourage a more modern fleet through all possible avenues.
Newer, safer cars save lives.
The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) is Australasia’s leading independent vehicle safety advocate. ANCAP provides consumers with transparent information on the level of occupant and pedestrian protection and collision avoidance capabilities provided by different vehicle models in the most common types of serious crashes.