Fatality rates are four times higher in an older vehicle, according to Australia and New Zealand's ANCAP safety advocate.
Breaking from a focus on marginal safety improvements from year to year, a recent automotive crash test highlights the vast gap that has grown over nearly two decades.
To demonstrate the relative dangers of older vehicles, Australia and New Zealand's independent vehicle safety advocate, ANCAP, launched a 2015 Toyota Corolla across a test track for a game of chicken against its 1998-model-year predecessor.
The dummy driver in the 2015 Corolla appears to be well protected in a cushion of airbags as the car's front structure absorbs the impact, minimizing intrusion into the cabin.
The 1998 Corolla's front end collapsed in the impact, but without absorbing enough energy to prevent significant intrusion into the cockpit. The driver's head struck both the steering wheel and the dash, while the seat collapsed. A human in a similar position would likely face severe head, chest and leg injuries.
"The person in this probably wouldn't survive," says AA Motoring Services General Manager Stella Stocks.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety performed a similar demonstration last year, showing how the cheapest car in Mexico held up in a head-on collision against the cheapest car in the US. The Mexican car was a Nissan 'Tsuru', essentially the third-generation Sentra that remained mostly unchanged in Mexico since 1992 due to lax safety laws.
The Tsuru is finally being put to rest this month after a 25-year production run, thanks to new safety regulations in Mexico.