Crash Characteristics for Classic/Historic Vehicles and Comparisons to Newer Vehicles

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date


Publication Title

SAE Mobilus

Conference Name

WCX SAE World Congress Experience


Introduction: Older vehicles, commonly referred to as “classic,” “vintage,” or “historic” vehicles (CVH), share the roadways with newer vehicles. Older vehicles lacking safety systems likely come with an increased risk of fatality, however there is no study examining the typical conditions for crashes involving CVH. Method: This study utilized information from crashes occurring in 2012 to 2019 to estimate fatal crash rates for vehicles grouped by model year deciles. Data from crashes documented in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) FARS and GES/CRSS data sets were utilized to examine roadway, temporal, and crash types for passenger vehicles produced in 1970 or earlier (CVH). Results: These data show CVH crashes are rare (<1% of crashes), but carry a relative risk of fatality from 6.70 (95th CI: 5.44–8.26) for impacts with other vehicles, which was the most common crash, to 9.53 (7.28–12.47) for rollovers. Most crashes occurred in dry weather, typically during summer, in rural areas, most frequently on two lane roads, and in areas with speed limits between 30 and 55 mph. Factors associated with fatality for occupants in CVH included alcohol use, lack of seat belt use, and older age. Conclusions and Practical Applications: Crashes involving a CVH are a rare event but have catastrophic consequences when they do occur. Regulations that limit driving to daylight hours may lower the risk of crash involvement, and safety messaging to promote belt use and sober driving may also help. Additionally, as new “smart” vehicles are developed, engineers should keep in mind that older vehicles remain on the roadway. New driving technologies will need to safely interact with these older, less safe vehicles.

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