Topless driving is safer than you think, IIHS says

Go ahead and scratch that convertible itch this summer

A new report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says that late-model convertibles are statistically just as safe as their hardtop counterparts. If you've been on the fence about purchasing a topless summer cruiser, this might be just the nudge you needed.

"Despite the relatively flimsy appearance of their roof structures, late-model convertibles are no riskier than non-convertibles, according to the analysis of crash and fatality rates," the Institute said in its announcement

Author Eric Teoh compiled National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) injury and fatality data from 2014 to 2018, comparing convertibles to their fixed-roof equivalents. Accounting for factors such as impairment and seat belt use and the circumstances of individual accidents, he found that crashes involving convertibles produced in the past five years were not statistically more likely to result in injury or death.

"These findings don’t suggest that convertibles offer better protection for their occupants than other cars, but they do indicate there’s no statistical basis for concerns that the lack of a permanent roof makes them more dangerous," said Teoh, IIHS director of statistical services.

There were some other noteworthy findings, likely due to the recreational aspirations of convertible buyers. They were involved in 6 percent fewer accidents per miles traveled than their equivalent hardtops. On the flip side (so to speak), drivers and passengers are more likely to be ejected from convertible models when an accident does happen. In this case, the fatality data back up common sense. 

"21 percent of the convertible drivers killed in crashes were ejected from the vehicle, compared with 17 percent for conventional cars. Among rollover crashes, the likelihood of ejection was 43 percent for convertibles versus 35 percent for their nonconvertible counterparts," the study found.

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