Newer Cars are Safer

The level of vehicle safety has advanced miraculously over the years and a recent report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) bears that out. The newer the automobile, the safer it is, and there are many reasons for that. These range from better and safer vehicle design, materials, and engineering to advanced driver assist technology aimed at making driving safer than ever.

Safety Technology Leads the way to Safer Vehicles

We have the NHTSA to thank for many of these improvements having been dedicated to vehicle safety improvements for over 50 years. Its decades of research and analysis of crash test data has aided automakers in developing cars that are focused on your safety. The NHTSA is known for developing safety standards for automobiles, creating its New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) 44 years ago. This renowned 5-Star Rating System helps to enforce safety standards for every make and model of vehicle on the roads today.
Thanks to this detailed accident research and ongoing safety standards, new car safety technology has been developed over the years and includes auto safety glass, roll cages, seat belts, airbags, automatic braking systems, stability control, onboard video cameras, child safety locks, and an amazing array of driver assist features that border on autonomous travel. 

Here's a quick refresher on some of the many vehicle safety improvements that have been making newer cars safer every year:
Seat Belts
Seat belts became a standard feature in automobiles after a federal law was passed in 1968 mandating and requiring new vehicles to be fitted with these restraints in all designated seating positions. The use of seat belts was voluntary until New York became the first state to require occupants to wear seat belts in 1984. Today, the use of seat belts has been said to have saved over a million lives and are considered one of the most cost-effective health inventions ever produced.
The first auto seat belts were only designed to go across your lap, whereas today three-point seat belt restrains you across both the lap and shoulder. According to the NHTSA, this system includes a pretensioner that pulls the seat belt tight and prevents excess slack during a crash. Each year over 15,000 Americans are saved by wearing seat belts and hundreds of thousands of lives are saved each year worldwide.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has said that "airbags are one of the most important safety innovations in recent decades" and for good reason. Since their adoption in 1987, front airbags have saved over 50,000 lives. Patented for automobile use in 1951, early airbags were inflated with compressed air. By 1967 an electromagnetic sensor and chemical inflators were used to inflate an airbag in under 30 milliseconds. General Motors first used airbags in its Impala models in 1970. While early airbags saved lives, they had to be reengineered to keep passengers from being injured when they deployed.
Over the years, front airbags became safer and became mandatory in all new cars in 1998. Today, many automakers also offer curtain airbags, side torso airbags, seat cushion and even knee airbags.
Automatic Braking Systems (ABS)
Many car accidents are caused by the driver losing control of a vehicle due to loss of traction on roads due to rain, snow, ice, even gravel. ABS is an anti-skid braking system used on all road vehicles to keep wheels and tires from locking up during braking. In the early 1950s an anti-skid system was developed for airplanes. Today's modern ABS was invented in 1971 by Mario Palazatti for Fiat. Chrysler introduced a computerized four-sensor all-wheel drive ABS that same year. General Motors and Ford soon followed suit.
ABS applies individual brake pressure to all four wheels through a control system of hub-mounted sensors through a micro-controller. It provides the basis for what is known as Electronic Stability Control (EBS).
Electronic Stability Control (ESC)
An evolution of ABS, ESC uses additional sensors including a gyroscopic sensor and steering wheel angle sensor. The gyro sensor can tell when the direction of the car does not correspond to what the steering wheel angle sensor reports. In other words, it knows when your car is involved in a skid. ESC software will cause the system to brake the necessary individual wheel or wheels so that proper steering control is returned to the driver. The system tells each wheel how much to brake and when.
ESC has been required in all new cars since 2014 and according to statistics, over 189,000 crashes have been avoided and over 6,000 lives have been saved thanks to this accident-avoidance system.
Video Camera Systems
Designed to avoid back up collisions and to help drivers see pedestrians and other vehicles in their blind spots, back up video cameras first debuted in production cars with the 1991 Toyota Soarer. The 2002 Nissan Primera introduced back up cameras to the American market. Infiniti debuted the surround-view camera in its 2008 EX35, using four cameras to create a top-down view around the vehicle. BMW offered its similar Surround View system in 2009.
In March of 2014, the NHTSA announced that all 2018 vehicles built in the United States were mandated to include backup cameras. As of this writing, according to the IIHS, video camera systems in cars have reduced crash involvement rates by 17 percent.
Driver Assist Features
Today's driver assist systems border on autonomous travel, but they all started with Adaptive Cruise Control in the late 1990s. It was based on a single radar sensor to maintain a constant distance from vehicles in front of you. Forward Collision Warning was added to make drivers aware of impending collisions. Lane Departure Warning added video cameras which detect white lane markers. In 2013, Mercedes-Benz debuted a system which integrated lateral and longitudinal control. Then Tesla launched its Autopilot system in 2015. But all of these technologies still require supervision by the driver.
The latest vehicles include what is known as Level 2 automation in which the car is still controlled by the driver. Driver assist technology currently includes blind spot warning, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, and adaptive cruise control.
With all the systems mentioned in this article, the ultimate goal is to continue to reduce accidents, injury and death. In 2020, NHTSA proposed upgrades to its 5-Star Safety Ratings system to include the latest crash avoidance and driver assist features.
New NHTSA Report
According to the NHTSA in a recent report, newer cars are safer by a wide margin. When looking at fatalities in automobile accidents, it found that 55 percent of occupants were fatally injured in cars built before 1984. But the number of fatalities were reduced as new safety technology was introduced. The following was pulled from NHTSA's Fatality Analysis Reporting System, and analyzation of passenger vehicle crashes involving a fatality.
  • 53 percent: Occupants fatally injured in vehicles built between 1985 and 1992
  • 46 percent: Occupants fatally injured in vehicles built between 1993 and 1997
  • 42 percent: Occupants fatally injured in vehicles built between 1997 and 2002
  • 36 percent: Occupants fatally injured in vehicles built between 2002 and 2007
  • 31 percent: Occupants fatally injured in vehicles built between 2008 and 2012
  • 26 percent: Occupants fatally injured in vehicles built between 2013 and 2017
In Conclusion
No less an expert on automobile safety than the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has found and confirmed that, according to its research, newer cars are safer cars. At Lithia Motors we care about your safety and want to keep you as a customer for life. Let us help you find a new car that meets your needs to keep you and your family safe for many miles to come.