Personal Injury Lawyer
Hazleton, PA

Study: Older Vehicles Put Passengers at Higher Risk of Car Accident, Death

Pennsylvania auto accident attorneyA decade ago, the average light vehicle in the U.S. was about 9.7 years-old. By 2016, it shot up to 11.6 years. Analysis by IHS Market forecast vehicles in the 6-to-11-year-old range will grow 5 percent by 2021, while those 12 and older will grow by 10 percent.

Although frugality can be a positive trait, these facts are troubling in light of a recent study revealing occupants of older vehicles (those made prior to 2000) are four times as likely to die in a crash as those in newer model vehicles. The analysis, conducted by Australian and New Zealand researchers at the ANCAP, released dramatic video of two vehicles in a head-on collision. One was a 1998 Toyota Corolla and another was its 2015 counterpart.

Both vehicles traveling at 40 mph, the collision was violent and jarring. But it was obvious right away that the newer model fared much better.

Why Newer Cars Are Safer

Safety features - particularly those involving structural improvements - are far superior in the newer model. While the passenger in the late-90s car is at risk for severe traumatic brain injuries, chest injuries and likely death, the newer-model car passenger will likely survive, likely with no life-threatening injuries.

The catastrophic structural failure of the older vehicle rendered it as having a 0.40 score out of 16, meaning it received 0 out of 5 stars. The newer car, meanwhile, received five stars.

In addition to these structural improvements, newer cars boast an ever-expanding list of updated safety components, including:

  • Curtain airbags;
  • Electronic Stability Control;
  • Auto Emergency Braking;
  • Lanekeeping Assist
  • Forward Collision Warning

These are just a few examples.

The study results came amid statistical evidence indicating that while 20 percent of vehicles on the road were built in 2000 or earlier, they represent 33 percent of those involved in deadly car accidents. Meanwhile, newer cars comprise 31 percent of vehicles, yet are involved in just 13 percent of fatal crashes. What that means is occupants of older vehicles are four times more likely to die in a fatal crash than those in newer cars.

Importance of UM/ UIM Coverage for Older Vehicles

As our Hazelton injury lawyers can explain, having an older car in and of itself isn't a form of negligence. However, owners of older vehicles must be aware of the greater potential for injury, and in turn do their best to keep their vehicle properly maintained and insured. That means not just carrying the minimum level of liability insurance, but also underinsured motorist coverage.  UIM coverage offers protection in the event the at-fault driver lacks adequate insurance to cover the full scope of your injuries. UM (uninsured motorist coverage) offers protection when the at-fault driver is either not insured or is not identified (i.e., a hit-and-run). Given that older cars pose a higher injury risk, owners may find it prudent to purchase more coverage.

75 Pa. C.S.A. Section 1731(a) does not require motorists in Pennsylvania to carry UM/ UIM coverage, though insurers are required to offer it. Consumers can waive it with a signature on an approved form. Absent this, insured will be deemed to be covered by UM/ UIM coverage in amounts equal to bodily injury liability coverage. Although individuals generally may not collect amounts covered by any first-party benefits or other health/ disability benefits paid or payable (per 75 Pa. C.S.A. Section 1722), UM/ UIM coverage serves to an important function for those catastrophically injured in a major crash.

Still, merely having this coverage is no guarantee you will get it. Insurers in the auto industry are adept at protecting their bottom line. Our job is to protect yours.

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