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Study identifies used car safety risk

20 JUNE, 2007

Victorian road safety organisations have released details of a study highlighting a significant safety gap between the best and worst performing vehicles on our roads.

The 2007 Used Car Safety Ratings report shows drivers or passengers are 26 times more likely to be killed or seriously injured in the worst rated car, the Daihatsu Hi-Jet (1982-1990), than in the best one, the VW Passat (1998-2005).

There are significant variations in protection in each vehicle class, so the vehicle model motorists choose can make a big difference in a crash.

The survey is the largest of its kind in the world and covers 279 vehicle types. It is conducted by the Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC) with support from RACV, TAC, VicRoads, and other state and federal road authorities and motoring clubs.

Data analysed by MUARC covered more than 2.8 million vehicles involved in crashes from 1987-2005 reported to police in Australia and New Zealand.

The two criteria used to rate vehicle models were crashworthiness (how much protection the vehicle provides the driver in a crash) and aggressivity (how much the vehicle is likely to harm other road users in a crash).

Eighty six vehicle models rated better than average, with 35 of those much better than average.

Heavier vehicles generally performed better. This shows the role vehicle mass plays in protecting people in crashes.

Most 4WDs scored average or better results for occupant protection. However, large 4WD vehicles have high aggressivity to other road users and are much more likely to harm other road users in a crash.
Most of the other vehicles that rated above average for occupant protection were in the medium and large classes, including the locally-made large cars. Many recent European mid-size vehicles also received above average ratings. This suggests European cars are leading the way in safety design and specification of safety features.

Small and light cars continue to have the worst performance in crashes. Light cars remain particularly problematic, with around two thirds in the worst category. This includes two vehicles still on sale - the Daewoo Kalos (2003-2004), which is now badged as a Holden Barina, and the Hyundai Getz (2002-2005). Car buyers should choose second-hand small cars with care and check the safety rating. Within this class there is a difference between cars and some are safer than others.

The majority of the worst performing vehicles were pre-1990 models, demonstrating the gains made in occupant protection in newer vehicles. A number of vehicle models now score better than average on both occupant protection and protection for other road users. These include:

  • VW Golf/Bora 99-04
  • Holden Astra TS 98-05
  • Toyota Corolla 98-01
  • Honda Accord 91-93
  • Mercedes C Class W202 95-00
  • Peugeot 405 89-97
  • Subaru Liberty 89-93
  • Toyota Cressida 89-93
  • Subaru Forester 97-02

The ratings for some models, however, are worse than average on both counts including:

  • Mitsubishi Cordia 83-87
  • Ford Falcon XE/XF 82-88
  • Mitsubishi Starwagon/L300 83-86
  • Toyota Tarago 83-89
  • Toyota Hiace/Liteace 82-95

These cars provide poor protection for everyone and should be avoided.

A full list of the 2007 Used Car Safety Ratings is now available or visit VicRoads.

For more information: 
MUARC:           Colin Viccary         0419 320 520
RACV:             David Jones           0410 065 070
TAC:               Anna Chalko          0447 335 576
VicRoads:        Kerilyn Wyatt        0411 021 225 

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