Car Safety Technology Has Upgraded Since the 1990s

zoomamsti cars safety technology
zoomamsti cars safety technology

We all know that old-fashioned cars, much as we love them, don’t hold a candle to the crashworthiness of today’s automobiles. Since the mid-1960s, automakers have been repeatedly improving the crash safety of mainstream family cars—starting with standard-equipment seatbelts and padded dashboards, and moving all the way up to today’s progressive safety cars systems that seek to stop a wreck before it has chance to occur.

But most of us maybe don’t fully realize just how much car safety has advanced in the past 20 years. Which is why this crash test video will probably shock you.

Produced by ANCAP—the Australasian New Car Valuation Program, the independent car safety technology commission for Australia and New Zealand—this video pits a 1998 Toyota Corolla against a 2015 Corolla in a small-overlap, head-on crash test. And the results aren’t


Even though the 1998 model was intended in an era when crash testing was standard process, it unconditionally crumples in this head-on crash at 64 km/h (roughly 40 mph). The photos taken after the crash tell the tale: The 2015 Toyota’s passenger section stays largely intact, while the 1998 model is buckled and distorted.

We should point out that, in 1998, Australia and New Zealand did not require airbags in new cars, which is why the green Toyota in this test doesn’t have them (that year, both driver and front passenger airbags became mandatory in the US market). Not that they’d really matter: With all that passenger section intrusion, and the way the crash test imitation got thrown around, most of the dummy’s damage couldn’t have been banned by an airbag.

And there was damage. “The older car continued catastrophic structural failure with dummy readings showing an very high risk of serious head, chest and leg injury to the driver,” ANCAP Chief Executive Officer James Goodwin explained on the government’s website. “It achieved a score of just 0.40 out of 16 points–zero stars.” The 2015 model scored 12.93 out of 16 points, for a five-star rating.

This may all seem obvious—nearly 20 years of engineering developments and tightening safety requirements separate the two vehicles. But ANCAP explains an unforeseen importance of having older cars like this still on the road. “It is luckless we tend to see our most at-risk drivers–the young and inexpert, as well as the elderly and more frail–in the most at-risk vehicles,” said Goodwin. With improved reliability and durability allowing more cars than ever before to survive for 10, 15, or 20 years as daily drivers, the amount of old cars on the road is continually increasing. As ANCAP explains, cars built before 2000 account for just 20 percent of cars on Australia’s roads—but they’re involved in 33 percent of fatal crashes in that nation.

We love old cars because they’re easy to work on, inexpensive to buy, and often more engaging to drive than what you can buy today. And there’s some joy in handing down a well-upheld family cars to the newest driver in your family. But you have to go into these choices with some knowledge and understanding. When push comes to shove, which car would you somewhat your loved ones be driving?