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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently reported that new safety features on vehicles are working. On the other hand, older vehicles without these new safety features tend to be more dangerous in crashes, and can pose a higher risk of injury.

NHTSA Finds People Less Likely to Die in Newer Vehicles

For the study, researchers examined the most recent data from the NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), gathered between 2012 and 2016. They were looking specifically at the relationship between the vehicle’s age and model year to its occupants’ injuries in a fatal crash. They grouped vehicles by age, subtracting the vehicle model year from the calendar year at the time of the crash. Vehicles whose age was calculated to be -1 were recoded to be age “0.” The resulting groupings were as follows:

  • 0-3 years
  • 4-7 years
  • 8-11 years
  • 12-14 years
  • 15-17 years
  • 18+ years

Results showed that the percentage of occupants fatally injured increased as the vehicle age increased:

  • 27 percent increase for 0-3 age group
  • 50 percent increase for the 18+ age group

For vehicles with a model year of 1984 and earlier, the percentage of occupants fatally injured was 55 percent. In every age group examined, more people were killed in older cars than in newer ones.

The NHTSA concluded that this most recent analysis supports previous findings indicating that a higher proportion of people in older vehicles suffer a fatal injury.

NHTSA Provides Consumers with “Shopping Guide” to Increase Awareness of Safety Features

In a press release on the study, NHTSA Deputy Administrator Heidi King urged consumers to keep the study results in mind when purchasing a new vehicle: “We encourage car buyers to select vehicles that meet their individual lifestyle, budget and transportation needs with the added assurance that they are making an investment in safety.”

To help consumers do that, the administration released a “vehicle shopping guide” to help increase awareness of various safety features. In that guide, they highlight a number of features that have shown in studies to help reduce the risk of injury and death:

  • Backup camera: Required as standard equipment in all 2018 and later model year vehicles, the backup camera provides a clear view of the area directly behind the vehicle.
  • Lane departure warning: Detects and warns that your vehicle is drifting over the lane markings.
  • Automatic emergency braking: Applies the brakes for you if a forward collision is imminent.
  • Blind spot detection: Warns you if a vehicle is in your blind spot.
  • Adaptive lighting: Adjusts headlights, lowering high beams when another vehicle is approaching, and raising them again once it passes.
  • Adaptive cruise control: Adjusts vehicle’s speed to maintain a safe following distance from the vehicle in front.

“While they may take some getting used to,” the NHTSA says, “these features can reduce motor vehicle crashes and their related injuries and deaths.”

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