Cars are now safer to drive than they were a decade ago, according to a new NHTSA study — try to hide your surprise. What might come as news, on the other hand, is how safe cars were according to the study’s findings before recent idiot-proofing.
Data used in the study examined cars model year 2000 through 2008 and came from police reports and estimated that innovations in car safety helped save 2,000 lives and aided in preventing 1 million injuries in 2008 alone. NHTSA used statistical models in an effort to separate vehicle safety feature assistance from driver and environment-related factors in its collision data as well.
It probably wasn’t hard for NHTSA to prove its point, but here’s the interesting part: the chances of walking away from a crash uninjured rose from 79 to 82 percent between 2000 and 2008. That means cars built in 2000 that packed little more than a few airbags, anti-lock brakes and a horn left you with a solid chance to fight another day after exchanging paint. Almost a decade later, with piles of tech-related “safety” features, that figure rose less than 0.5 percent per year.
There’s no denying that cars are getting safer to drive and as NHTSA administrator David Strickland says, there’s no reason to expect that will change.
“We expect this trend to continue as automakers add advanced safety features to their fleets and continue to improve vehicle designs to earn top safety ratings under our newly updated 5-Star crash-test program,” he said. “Safer cars, along with safer drivers and roads, are key components in ensuring the annual number of traffic fatalities remains on a downward trajectory.”
Transportation secretary ray LaHood, the Obama administration’s anti-cell phone bloodhound, acknowledged that safety is on an upswing, but that there is still room to improve.
“Between better safety practices developed at the Department of Transportation and improved designs by automakers, we are making real progress protecting drivers and passengers nationwide,” LaHood said. “We celebrate the historic decline in deaths and injuries on our roads as we remain laser-focused on continuing to improve safety.”
Constantly pushing for stricter standards state-by-state, it’s likely that those statistics will continue to improve, especially considering the best safety systems in the world can’t prevent a crash if you’re not paying attention.