A 2013 Dodge Viper Silverthorne on Loveland Pass, Colorado I-70.

A 2013 Dodge Viper Silverthorne on Loveland Pass, Colorado I-70. Image is a screen shot from a Youtube video by GregRojnaCOM.

With Thanksgiving almost here, Coloradans can be thankful for a report issued Monday by the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association (CADA) that says — as L. Wayne Hicks writes in the Denver Business Journal — there has been a 12% increase in the number of registrations of new vehicles in the state in the first 10 months of this year as compared with the same period last year. This is good news for all Coloradans because the newest cars have the highest percentage of safety features, thus the roads in the state are getting safer.

Reuters reported in August that the average age of the 247 million cars and trucks on U.S. roads was 11.4 years old, the oldest age on record, according to Polk, a Michigan-based research and consulting firm. In 2012, the average age of vehicles was 11.2. Before the 2008 recession, the average age of cars and trucks on U.S. roads was 10 years, Reuters notes. Polk projects the number of cars and trucks on U.S. roads will total 260 million by 2018.

Although used cars are more affordable than new ones, older cars lack many of the safety features new ones have that can lessen injuries in a crash, according to a press release from Pemco Insurance. New, young drivers especially — who lack experience — need all the safety features in a car that they can get, Pemco says.

The Seattle-based insurance company laments the lack of safety features on older vehicles:

While there’s no doubt automakers have made significant advances in safety over the decades, chances are even a 10-year-old vehicle today would lack newer recommended safety features such as electronic stability control and driver head-protecting side airbags.

In 2003, less than 25 percent of vehicles offered side airbags as a standard feature, and electronic stability control wasn’t available in more than 60 percent of vehicle models, according to data from IIHS.

In an article posted a few months ago, the insurance company USAA lists 10 car safety features that can save lives:

  • Lane departure warning systems
  • Enhanced visibility (which includes such features as infrared night vision and adaptive headlights)
  • Rear-view cameras
  • Reverse backup sensors
  • Automatic braking
  • Forward collision avoidance systems
  • Side-view assist (in which your side mirrors alert you when a vehicle is in your blind spot)
  • Parking assist (which USAA notes can help eliminate fender benders)
  • Electronic stability control (a required safety feature in all new cars beginning in 2012)
  • Advanced airbag systems, such as Ford’s inflatable seat belts and Scion’s rear-window airbag.

USAA reports that, according to a 2012 Highway Loss Data Institute report, forward collision avoidance systems (FCAS) and adaptive headlights have been shown to prevent crashes. Also known as a pre-crash warning system, FCAS warns a driver if he or she is about to hit something, and is often combined with automatic braking. Depending on what system a car has, it can pre-charge brakes, move the passenger seat back, position head rests to help people in the vehicle avoid whiplash and apply partial or full brakes. USAA notes that, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, as many as 1.2 million crashes could be stopped or mitigated every year if all vehicles had this feature.

However the verdict is still out for lane departure warning systems (LDWS), blind-spot detection and parking assist, USAA notes. The warning systems, designed to prevent head-on collisions and other serious accidents, use cameras or other sensors around the vehicle to sense its position in the lane.

According to Hicks, Tim Jackson, president of CADA, said Coloradans have been taking advantage of factory incentives and low interest to replace their aging vehicles with new ones. The most popular new vehicle for Colorado car buyers this year was a Dodge, Hicks reports, with registrations for that car brand up 48.2% over last year. Ram was second, with a 33.6 increase; Porsche was third, up by 31.4%; and BMW was fourth, with people buying 30.4% more of them than last year.

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