Kendall Law Firm Blog

Driving with Top Down Is Safer Than You Think, IIHS Says




  |  posted by Kendall Law Firm   |   Car Accidents

a couple riding in a convertible car

It has long been held among those of us who study car accidents that convertibles pose a greater risk of injuries in a collision than most other types of vehicles. But a new study says you can put the top down and carry on without added concern if you are lucky enough to be driving through the Shenandoah Valley in a convertible.

“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 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says in a new report.

In fact, the IIHS says, crash rates and driver death rates were lower for convertibles than for non-convertible versions of the same cars, though the difference was not significantly relevant.

The assumption has been that having the top down or being protected only by the thinner convertible roof increases the risk of crush injuries or ejection from the vehicle in a rollover accident.

However, the study’s findings “indicate there’s no statistical basis for concerns that the lack of a permanent roof makes it more dangerous,” Eric Teoh, IIHS director of statistical services and the study’s author, says in the report.

What Is it About A Convertible?

Driving in a convertible with the top down on a nice, sunny day around Charlottesville, or through the small towns of the Shenandoah Valley, is a great way to see Virginia.

A history of the convertible by Popular Mechanics points out that the first cars at the end of the 19th century had no tops, but closed-in sedans became the dominant body style in the 1920s. Peugeot introduced the retractable hardtop in 1934.

U.S. convertibles nearly died out in in the 1970s due to proposed government rollover regulations. Convertibles enjoyed new popularity in the ’80s with Ford and General Motors producing convertible versions of the Sunbird, Cavalier, Camaro, Mustang and, for a brief time, the Thunderbird. Today there are several hardtop convertibles in production and traditional soft-top convertibles remain popular.

Most convertible owners love the sporty look of convertibles, and the wow factor of a convertible may be appealing.

A look at other pros and cons of convertibles by Nationwide Insurance include:

  • Better visibility without a roof and door frames
  • More head room for tall drivers
  • Versatility – you can always just leave the top up.

Factors weighing against convertibles include:

  • Noise
  • Susceptibility to leaks
  • Potential sun damage to seats, dashboards and other surfaces
  • Higher prices, on the order of $5,000 to $9,000 more on average.

Convertible Lifestyle and IIHS Accident and Safety Figures

In the end, it is likely the lifestyle choice of driving a convertible that determines who will own one. The IIHS study hinted at the attitude of convertible drivers and its role in safety.

The IIHS found little difference in the types of car accidents among the fatalities studied, whether the vehicle was a convertible or nonconvertible.

Among both vehicle types:

  • About 25 percent were rollover crashes
  • About 50 percent were single-vehicle crashes
  • About 60 percent were front-impact crashes
  • About 20 percent were side-impact crashes.

Among rollover crashes, the likelihood of ejection was 43 percent for convertibles versus 35 percent for their nonconvertible counterparts,” the study found.

Though the differences were “too small to suggest a big variation in driver behavior,” the IIHS found that convertible drivers were “slightly more likely to be wearing seat belts and slightly less likely to be speeding, though they were a bit more likely to be impaired by alcohol.”

Additionally, it may be that convertible owners more often drive the vehicles in nice weather or on less busy roads, and that could affect crash rates, the study author, said.

“Based on this study, convertibles don’t appear to pose a particular safety risk,” Teoh said. “If you’re shopping for a convertible, you should consider crash test ratings and safety features, just as you would if you were shopping for any other car.”

Talk to an Experienced Convertible Accident Lawyer

If you are injured in a car accident involving a convertible or any vehicle that was not your fault, you should consider the experience and track record of the attorney when selecting a car accident lawyer. An experienced car accident attorney from Kendall Law Firm can work to recover compensation for you if you have been injured by another driver’s carelessness.

Under Virginia personal injury law, after a car accident you may be due compensation for:

  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Lost wages and lost earning power
  • Damage to your vehicle
  • An injury’s’ effect on your health
  • Physical pain and mental anguish
  • Disfigurement and scarring
  • Inconvenience caused by your injuries.

The damages you are entitled to seek will depend on the circumstances surrounding your accident and the extent of your injuries and losses. To obtain the full amount, you will need an attorney who has handled numerous similar injury cases and understands what compensation is appropriate to demand. You’ll need an attorney that is willing to take your case to court if the insurance company refuses to agree to a reasonable settlement.

At Kendall Law Firm, we offer a free case consultation with no strings attached and do not charge a fee until we recover damages for you. We can seek out the evidence to support your case, assess the full extent of your injuries and other losses, and press insurance companies for a proper settlement of your claim. We will also be ready to present your case to a Virginia jury, if necessary.

Contact Kendall Law Firm today. Our main office is in Charlottesville, VA, and we maintain locations in Winchester, Harrisonburg and Woodstock for client meetings. If you are in the hospital because of your injuries, our attorney can visit you there.

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Get a free consultation today. Call us before you speak with the insurance adjuster.