The Age Of Your Car Could Save Your Life

Meet Anne and Michael: two strangers who drive along the same road every day.

Anne is studying nursing at university, lives with her boyfriend and drives her beloved 1998 Toyota Corolla handed down from her grandma.

And then there's Michael; husband, father and accountant who doesn't mind a round of backyard cricket on the weekend. He drives his family around in a 2015 Toyota Corolla hatch.

A lot has changed since Anne's car was on the market. It's now 20 years old, and while mechanically reliable, lacks safety features such as anti-lock brakes (ABS) and electronic stability control (ESC). Its airbag count is zero.

Michael's car is far newer than Anne's. It has standard airbags plus seat belt pre-tensioners, ABS and ESC -- safety features that would ultimately save his life.

Image: ANCAP

Anne and Michael are fictitious, but they feature in a national campaign launched by The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) urging Aussies to think about the age and relative safety of their vehicles.

According to the independent vehicle safety authority, these are likely contributors to fatal road crashes that are often ignored.

“Many road safety campaigns have tended to focus on behavioural aspects such as speed, fatigue, drink driving and enforcement.," ANCAP Chief Executive James Goodwin said.

"They remain vital, however this campaign highlights the importance of choosing a safer vehicle.”

READ MORE: Sydney Drivers Not Getting The Message On Mobile Phones

ANCAP has been publishing crash test results for over 590 passenger and light commercial vehicles sold in Australia and New Zealand since 1993.

The ad simulates a crash test between Anne's 1998 Toyota Corolla and its current day model, driven by Michael. Due to the age and lack of safety features, Anne doesn't survive, yet Michael does.

According to ANCAP research, older vehicles -- built earlier than 2001 -- are involved in fatal crashes at a rate four times higher than that of newer vehicles built between 2012 and 2017. And the average age is increasing, from 12.5 years in 2015 to 13.1 years in 2017.

Those older vehicles account for 20 percent of all vehicles currently registered on our roads but are involved in 36 percent of fatalities.

On the other hand, newer vehicles account for 31 percent of the fleet, but are involved in 12 percent of fatalities.

"Too often people say the older car is safer and stronger. It is quite clear that is not the case," Goodwin said.

NRMA Executive Director of Motoring Operations Melanie Kansil said the campaign targeted young people and the elderly.

"We know older vehicles are attractive to young people and those who are older who tend to keep vehicles, longer," Kansil said.

She told 10 daily the campaign "isn't about selling more new cars", instead getting people into the safest vehicle for their budget.

"Regardless of whether you're looking to buy a new or used car, it's important to know the vehicle's safety features," she said.

"Choosing the right car can quite literally be a life or death decision, so we want to equip everyone with the tools to make a safe choice.”

But price remains a sticking point. Goodwin said the campaign aims to improve the affordability of newer, safer vehicles and encourage fleet renewal.

“In 2017 the average age of the vehicle fleet was around 10 years. Older vehicles don’t have many of the life-saving features, like front and side curtain airbags, electronic stability control and automated emergency braking," he said.

What's your ANCAP?

Members of the public are being urged to review the safety performance of their own vehicle using ANCAP's safety ratings -- particularly young Aussies and the elderly.

Vehicles are awarded a rating between one and five stars in the event of a crash. ANCAP recommends  5-star rated vehicles, that have advanced safety assist technology and achieves the highest standards across all tests.

"You don't have to buy a new or expensive car to give five star levels of safety," added Kansil.

"You people who have restricted budgets and older Australians who hold onto their cars longer can really benefit from checking their car's ANCAP safety rating."

‘TOP CHOICE’ SAFER CARS UNDER $9,000

* 5 star ANCAP safety rating; less than 5 years old (2013 or newer).

- 2013 Mazda 3

- 2014 Ford Mondeo

- 2014 Holden Commodore

- 2014 Hyundai i30

- 2014 Toyota Corolla

- 2016 Kia Rio

Contact the author ebrancatisano@networkten.com.au