The Sarasota County government regularly releases data on car accidents in Sarasota County. The latest data (for calendar year 2015) reveals the most common driver violation was operating a vehicle in a negligent or careless manner. Negligence was more than three times as common as any other type of violation. This raises a concerning question for Sarasota drivers: How can they protect themselves from the inevitable negligence of others?
Research Data Can Help Drivers Purchase Safer Vehicles
In recent years, auto manufacturers have introduced an impressive number of safety features into new vehicles: backup cameras, electronic stability control, semi-autonomous features like lane control, more airbags placed at strategic locations. These are just a few of the many features from which consumers may now choose. Unfortunately, there is not yet sufficient data to definitively prove that these features reduce the incidence of car accidents, nor the severity of injuries which occur in an accident. There are, however, two factors which have been consistently shown to protect drivers from accidents and injuries: the size and age of the vehicle being driven.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently released data on fatality rates among vehicles in the 2014 model year (and equivalent vehicles in the 2012-2015 model years). Of the ten vehicles with the highest fatality rates, five were mini cars and three were small cars. The category of vehicle with the lowest overall fatality rate was luxury sport utility vehicles with four-wheel drive. This study corroborates data which has been consistently reported in earlier studies: larger vehicles are safer than small vehicles.
In New Zealand, the Australasian New Car Assessment Program ("ANCAP") has also made useful findings with respect to the safety features in new vehicles. In one dramatic crash test, a 1998 Toyota Corolla and a 2015 Corolla were forced into a head-on collision at sixty-four kilometers per hour (approximately forty miles per hour). The 1998 model had a structural design which allowed the impact of the collision to crumple the structure of the passenger compartment. Not only did the 2015 model prevent this with its newer, safer structure design, but it also had additional airbags, restraints, and other safety features within the passenger compartment which protected the crash test dummy from additional impacts sustained by the dummy in the 1998 model. This test corroborated earlier findings reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which found that drivers of older vehicles were more likely to die in car crashes than drivers of newer vehicles.
Buying the Safest Vehicle
While it likely not possible for consumers to buy a large new vehicle every model year, this data can nevertheless be used to improve a driver's chances of surviving a car accident with fewer injuries. Drivers will be safest when they choose the largest and newest vehicle within their budgets.
It should be noted that because Florida is a no-fault state when it comes to auto insurance, one must first exceed the serious injury threshold before they can collect damages from the other driver beyond what they receive from their own personal injury protection (PIP) benefits.