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Newer = Safer

We’ve had lots of discussions about how newer cars are safer than the ‘good old days’ of the 1950s-1970s. But this applies to much more recent cars, as shown by this collision between a 2015 Corolla and a 1998 Corolla:

More info here:

Between IIHS/HLDI and the DoT, the pressure is constantly on the auto manufacturers to improve automobile safety. 1998 might be early for the offset frontal crash test. That issue was solved well before 2015. The safety police moved on to the farther offset frontal crash test now.

There’s a lot more safety to be had by preventing collisions than making them safe.

A Dutch traffic engineer proposes, and Dutch experience is consistent with, prompting drivers to pay more attention than having more rules. For instance, traffic circles at intersections instead of stop signs decrease collisions and total delay. Len Frank & John Retsek of KPFK’s ‘Car Show’ used to call Joan Claybrook Joan Crash Claybrook because NHTSA focused on crash safety when she headed it instead of crash prevention; they contended there was more crash safety in prevention.

Mercedes made a prototype of a car that could protect the driver in a 50-mph collision; it was 500 pounds front-heavy, with attendant fuel efficiency.

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Both are important, of course. US death rate has dropped a huge amount since 1960, most of which is due to car design, I believe:

I agree. It is interesting to note that there is no trough where the national speed limit was 55 MPH on all roads. Not that everyone was going 55 at that time.

That is interesting.

There’s a downturn, not a trough, in vehicle miles ca. 1973-4. That was the time of the “Arab oil embargo” when gasoline supplies in the US were tight and prices rose above $1 a gallon. It also looks like a somewhat steeper decline in the annual deaths per billion miles during those years.

What were the years of the 55 MPH speed limit, anyway?

I’ll add that in addition to improved car design seat belt use has made a big difference. Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s it seemed to me that hardly anyone wore them and you’d hear about people getting in crashes and hitting the windshield, etc. I also met people back then who thought it would be safer to be thrown clear in a crash or thought the seat belt could trap them. My family was an exception as my parents strongly believed in them–my dad was a former A.F. pilot and had seen how they helped. There were obstacles–if I rode in a neighbor’s car it was a challenge to dig the seat belts out from behind the seats and sometimes people had removed them or the car was too old to have them. Nowadays it seems that the majority of U.S. drivers wear seat belts.

Back in the day, auto manufacturers hardly encouraged seat belt use, with their designs. My 1970 Chevelle has separate bulky buckles for the harnesses and front seat lap belts. One has to stow the harnesses with two clips on the roof above the front windows. My 1982 Cressida made life a little easier, with automatic harnesses (you still had to put on the seat belt, lest you “submarine” in a crash)

My '71 Charger had the same type of Rube Goldberg setup for its separate belt systems, but I did try to use them both until I realized that it was impossible to reach the e-brake release when the shoulder harness was used. After that revelation, I used the shoulder harness only on very rare occasions.

With highway speeds increasing, there will be an increase in deaths compared to when the limit was 55.

When I was in Germany, I saw accidents that resulted in the engine being separated from the body.

People also simply drove less during that time. Night spots that used to be busy 'til 1:00 in the morning suddenly were closing at 8:00 or 9:00 pm. The town I lived in “rolled up the sidewalks” at 8. Kids used to cruise up an down Main Street 'til late night and then suddenly the town was dead after sunset. The oil embargo made a huge impact on our lifestyle that went way beyond driving slower.

I believe there was also a sudden lowering of highway deaths the year they reduced the time that the death occurred after the accident from one year to one month. Sort of a statute of limitations on cause of death. The actual death rate didn’t drop but what counted as a car accident death did.

Methodology can make a big difference in statistics, so if some other country boasts of a low suicide or murder rate, one should immediately ask “what counts as a murder or suicide there?”

Except last year…