This analysis How Vehicle Age and Model Year Relate to Driver Injury Severity in Fatal Crashes examines how the age of the vehicle at the time of the crash and the vehicle’s model year are correlated with the injury outcome of the driver of a passenger vehicle involved in a fatal crash. A multivariate logistic regression model was constructed to model the relationship between injury outcome (fatally injured versus survived) of the driver and the independent variables vehicle age (0–3 years, 4–7, 8–11, 12–14, 15–17, and 18+) and vehicle model year (MY 2008–2012, MY 2003–2007, MY 1998–2002, MY 1993–1997, and MY 1985–1992) while accounting for many other crash factors. Based on criteria described in the Data and Methodology section, 117,957 fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers and 133,869 surviving passenger vehicle drivers are examined using data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) for 2005 to 2011.
The analysis shows that conditional on being involved in a fatal crash, the driver of an older vehicle is more likely to be fatally injured as compared to the driver of a newer vehicle. In fact, the model estimates that the driver of a vehicle that was 18+ years old at the time of the crash was 71 percent more likely to be fatally injured than the driver of a vehicle that was 3 years old or less. The model also produces an estimate for the driver of a vehicle 4 to 7 years old, being 10 percent more likely to be fatally injured than the driver of a vehicle that was 3 years old or newer; a driver of a vehicle 8 to 11 years old (19% more likely); a driver of a vehicle 12 to 14 years old (32% more likely); a driver of a vehicle 15 to 17 years old (50% more likely); and a driver of a vehicle 18 or older
(71% more likely). Each estimate represents a comparison to the baseline vehicle age category of 3 years old or newer.
The analysis also shows that conditional on being involved in a fatal crash, the driver of an older MY vehicle is more likely to be fatally injured as compared to the driver of a newer MY vehicle. In fact, the regression model estimates that a driver in a MY 2003–2007 vehicle was 20 percent more likely to be fatally injured than a driver in the baseline vehicle MY category of 2008–2012. The model produced comparable estimates for drivers of MY 1998–2002 vehicles (32%), drivers of MY 1993–1997 vehicles (41%), and drivers of MY 1985–1992 vehicles (76%). Each estimate represents a comparison to the baseline vehicle model year category of MY 2008–2012.
The report also shows that driver restraint use plays a large role in the relationship between vehicle age and the percentage of drivers who were fatally injured. In vehicles of age less than 1, about 72 percent of the unrestrained drivers were fatally injured as compared to only 26 percent among restrained drivers. While the percent killed among restrained drivers climbed fairly steadily with increasing vehicle age, this pattern was seen less among unrestrained drivers. Among vehicles age 3 all the way up to age 19, the
percentage killed among unrestrained drivers varied little, remaining between 76 and 78 percent. This pattern among fatal crashes suggests that a driver’s choice of being unrestrained removes many of the safety benefits that are provided by a newer vehicle.
This report does not analyze all passenger vehicle drivers in the United States in order to measure the overall risk of a driver in this population being fatally injured. The report merely analyzes the experience that passenger vehicle drivers in fatal crashes have had.