Classic Steel vs Modern Safety

The American classic car has a special place in the hearts of many drivers for many reasons. Some love the artful lines of the steel bodywork, other appreciate the outmoded but simpler body-on-frame manufacture, and there's few who can deny the beauty of a Chevy small block's deep, burbling exhaust melody.

But new data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives us all one huge reason to love our newer cars- you're much more likely to survive a car accident in one. The NHTSA surveyed fatal traffic accident data from 2012-2014 across 50 US states and the District of Colombia, and the numbers are frankly shocking. While occupants of new cars died in 27% of these fatal crashes, a mind-boggling 55% of people in cars from 1984 or before died. A clear pattern emerges- the older your car, the less chance you have of walking away from a car accident unscathed.

Better Graph

There are many reasons for this, many due to the automotive industries' (compelled by regulation in many cases) development of safety systems such as collapsible steering wheels, crumple zones, 3 point seat belts, and airbags. The numbers are still surprising to many, however, given how much of older vehicles was made out of steel compared to today's cars of composite, aluminum and plastic. The strength difference between the old style of manufacture and design versus the modern, however, is remarkable. The same chassis crush test machines that were once used on trucks are now used for sedans.

In 2009, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released an incredible video of a crash test modeling a 45-mph offset frontal impact between a 2009 Chevy Malibu and a 1959 Chevy Bel-Air.

Malibu Bel-Air

VIDEO: Frontal Impact Test- 2009 Malibu vs 1959 Bel-Air

The results speak for themselves. While classic cars can (and should) be treasured, perhaps consider a more modern car for your daily commute- it could save your life.