Convertibles Are Statistically Safer Than Their Hardtop Counterparts: Study

Have no fear of feeling the wind on your face.

Convertibles get their fair share of ribbing from enthusiasts due to their flimsy frames and heavier curb weights, but a new study from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety shows that while they may not be the most desirable cars in terms of objective performance, they’re statistically no more dangerous than the fixed-roof versions of the same vehicle. In fact, they’re safer. Statistically speaking.

The author of the study, Eric Teoh, is quick to point out that while convertibles may be safer on paper, they’re not physically safer or more protective of drivers in the real world. But drawing from an NHTSA data pool of 1-5 year-old coupes and convertibles driven between 2014-18, the IIHS found that the droptops had 6 percent fewer police-reported crashes per mile traveled than their coupe counterparts, and driver fatality rates were 11 percent lower as well. This is all despite the higher likelihood that the driver or passengers will be ejected from the vehicle during an accident.

Why exactly? Teoh speculates that convertible drivers on the whole might be less likely to drive aggressively or in inclement weather—in other words, they’re out for a nice cruise. 

The IIHS also notes that—while convertibles are perfectly safe—having a stronger roof on a car makes injury less likely. That’s why we’ve all seen the pillars on cars growing in the past few years—NHTSA has begun testing roof-crush resistance more aggressively. But vehicles with either fabric-covered or rigid retractable roofs are exempt from these requirements. In fact, the report states that “convertibles have remained a low priority for the [crash] testing program due to their small sales volumes.”

This low-priority on the testing docket, as per the study, has not led to more fatalities. It has also not stopped manufacturers from taking matters into their own hands. Nearly all convertibles for sale today are equipped with either fixed or pop-up rollbars to prevent passenger injury or death.

So if you want to feel the wind in your hair, hear that motor a bit better, and smell all of those lovely smells wafting through their air you just can’t when you’re uh…couped up in a coupe, then have no fear. You’re not driving around in anything less likely to save your life.

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