When Is a Car Too Old to Drive Safely?

1949 green Ford pickup truck parked
Posted: October 20, 2023

Car payments can be expensive, and rising interest rates do not help. According to a recent report, this year the average age of light vehicles in the United States hit a record high of 12.5 years. That is a large jump from the average vehicle age record just a couple decades ago. In 2003, that number was 9.7 years, according to the same report.  

The importance of safe vehicle maintenance cannot be overstated, particularly in an older vehicle. All New York car owners are familiar with the annual vehicle inspection. But responsible car ownership does not end with simply asking where the vehicle can be inspected. While that inspection is completed at one-year intervals, the responsibility to ensure that the vehicle is safe and reliable holds firm every single day of the year.  

Equipment Requirements 

Section 375 of New York Vehicle and Traffic Law describes equipment all vehicles on the roadway must carry at all times. All New York car owners should be familiar with its provisions. Not surprisingly, all motor vehicles must have adequate brakes and a steering mechanism that is in good working order and “sufficient to control such vehicle at all times when the same is in use.” The vehicle must have an adequate horn “or other device for signaling.” The horn must be “sufficiently loud to serve as a danger warning” but it should not be overused “other than as a reasonable warning.” It also cannot be unnecessarily loud or harsh. Vehicles must also have “suitable wipers” or another device “which shall clear a sufficient area of the windshields to provide reasonable driving vision.”  

Lamps, signaling devices and reflectors are addressed in Section 376 (b) of the Vehicle and Traffic Law, which empowers the commission of the Department of Motor Vehicles to promulgate rules and regulations “with respect to lamps, reflectors and signaling devices, their number, type, design, construction, location, attachment and use on vehicles being driven.”  

The Department of Motor Vehicles has published a helpful information sheet entitled Equipment Required for Passenger Vehicles, which summarizes the minimum safety requirements for passenger vehicles registered in New York State. According to the information sheet, tires must meet Federal DOT standards and “will not be considered safe if there is a visible break, cut in excess of one inch, bump, bulge, ply or cord exposure, tread design completely worn or tread depth (when measured) is less than 2/32 of an inch.”  

The question “when is a car too old to drive safely” is not easily answered. Just ask classic car enthusiasts. An older car, if carefully maintained, can survive on the roads for decades. Whether it is a brand new car just off of the lot or a decades-old fix-upper, New York car owners have a responsibility to ensure that their vehicles comply with minimum safety requirements.   

The attorneys at William Mattar, P.C. have extensive experience helping injured motorists after New York car crashes. If you were injured in a New York car crash and are looking for help investigating how the crash occurred, including whether negligent vehicle maintenance caused or contributed to the crash, please do not hesitate to contact the attorneys at William Mattar, P.C. Someone is available to take your call 24/7 at (844) 444-4444. 

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