Australian crash tests show dramatic improvements in vehicle safety over the past two decades in the region comprising Australia, New Zealand and Melanesia.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program says its latest analysis of car-to-car crash tests shows older vehicles are over-represented in fatal accidents.

The analysis of the regional fleet shows that while older models built before 2000 account for just 20% of the registered vehicle fleet, they are involved in 33% of fatal crashes.

In contrast, newer vehicles built from 2011-2016 make up 31% of the fleet but are involved in only 13% of fatal crashes.

The crash test involved a ʼ98 Toyota Corolla and a ʼ15 Toyota Corolla.

The frontal-offset test, which replicates a head-on crash, was conducted at 40 mph (64 km/h).

ANCAP CEO James Goodwin says the older car sustained catastrophic structural failure with dummy readings showing an extremely high risk of serious head, chest and leg injury to the driver. It achieved a score of just 0.4 out of 16 points, earning no points.

“In contrast, the current model performed very well with a 5-star level of protection offered, scoring 12.93 out of 16 points, Goodwin says.

“The outcomes of this test are stark and the automotive, finance and insurance industries can play a part to assist in encouraging people into newer, safer cars.”

Goodwin says ANCAP has been tracking the average age of a vehicle involved in a fatal crash, and in just one year that average increased from 12.5 years to 12.9 years.

“This highlights the need for a renewed national focus and greater support for safer vehicles,” he says.

The over-representation of older vehicles in fatal crashes is similar in New Zealand, where the average age of the vehicle fleet is 14.3 years and the average age of a vehicle involved in a fatal crash is 15.6 years.

“It is unfortunate we tend to see our most at-risk drivers – the young and inexperienced, as well as the elderly and more frail – in the most at-risk vehicles,” Goodwin says. “We hope this test promotes a conversation to encourage all motorists to consider the safety of their car.”