The standards for safety ratings change periodically, and great strides have been made in safety. I'm curious how much risk I'd remove by upgrading from a 2010 to a 2015 or 2018.
Driver death data  mentioned below may be the best source, just curious if there are any others.
Also,  is a really interesting crash test between a 1998 Corolla and a 2015 Auris (rebranded Corolla).
I’ve been driving a car with the pre collision warnings, lane departure warnings, etc since 2017 and it has saved me at least once.
There’s a concern about moral hazard with the new technologies, but my rule is to drive as if the car has no safety features, and if they activate, then that is a bonus.
It’s hard to compare the collision prevention systems over time since they’re so new, but just going off the narrative reporting from IIHS, and comparing the test standard in 2017 vs 2020, leads me to believe they’ve made great strides in the last few years.
I expect they're a net gain for the public, but that for an individual who's conscientious and never drives under the influence, tired, or distracted, that they're only marginally useful at best.
Possibly even negatively useful if you consider that the car they come in has significantly reduced visibility compared to it's '00s counterpart.
Lane departure avoidance systems that been when you start to drift sideways are really annoying, but the preemptive braking stuff seems like a really good thing to have.
Starting at 1:30, there's a 1998 vs 2015 Corolla. Manufacturers only started taking the small overlap frontal test seriously in 2015 (it was introduced in 2012). If you can afford not to, you really don't want to be driving a car older than that. The safety improvements that have been made in the last 10 years alone make a new car worth it.
Here's some highlights and keep in mind there's a lag between the first car with a feature and it becoming a widely adopted standard. And of course each new feature is always being improved.
1959 - First car with 3 point seat belt as standard
1971 - First car with anti-skid brakes (ABS precursor)
1978 - First car with electronic 4 wheel ABS
1983 - First car with anti-skid control (ESC precusor)
1995 - First car with ESC
1997 - Curtain air bags
2002 - Knee air bags
2004 - Lane keeping assist
2009 - First car with emergency pedestrian braking
2009 - Rear-seat center airbags
2010 - Seat belt airbags
2016 - Tesla Autopilot
2018 - Reverse cameras become mandatory
The balance between frugality and safety upgrades is my internal struggle. Growing up, I remember it being a big deal when cars hit 100,000 or 120,000 miles. That's pretty common now, which makes the safety aspect more important.
I average ~12,000 miles/year, which is pretty close to the US average of 13,500 miles/year. With cars lasting so much longer than they used to, buying an older low-mileage car means you'll be driving a pretty old car by the time it becomes high mileage.
I'm going to run my 2010 Civic for awhile longer, then probably look at a ~3 year old car with ~80,000 miles. I can run it for ~6 years, end up with ~150,000 miles, then sell it to a high school kid who is only going to put 5,000 miles/year on it.