On September 1, Jared Black rolled Kevin Hart’s 1970 Plymouth Barracuda into a ditch. Hart and Black both sustained major back injuries, while a third passenger suffered minor injuries. Now, TMZ reports that Hart is preparing to be sued because his car did not have airbags or safety harnesses.
The car had been extensively modified to produce 720 horsepower, but TMZ reports that the modification shop did not put in “safety harnesses.” TMZ isn’t referring to a typical three-point seat belt or lap belt, but a full five-point harness. In an earlier article on the subject, TMZ wrote:
Kevin Hart was riding in a death trap in the form of a tricked out 1970 Plymouth Barracuda ... so say car experts, who believe his ride lacked key safety features that would’ve spared him horrendous injuries as a result of his car crash.
Several owners of car customizing shops specializing in performance vehicles tell TMZ ... it’s “highly unusual” for cars with 720 horsepower to be outfitted without a five-point harness and a roll cage.
But the jump from “highly unusual” to “criminally negligent” is not a small one. While we don’t know if the standard lap belt was still in the Barracuda, the car did not come standard with a five-point harness or airbags, which are also mentioned as a point of contention.
Many drivers opt to upgrade their safety equipment when extensively modifying vehicles, but there are very few laws governing safety standards for modified cars. Moreover, most of them deal with not tampering with existing safety equipment rather than requiring additional equipment.
Had this vehicle been used for hire, there may be an argument that the business was being negligent by renting out an unsafe product. As Hart’s personal vehicle, though, it’s tougher to say that letting a friend drive an old car without modern safety features is criminally negligent.
Ultimately, there’s a good chance that this is settled out of court and likely won’t have wide-ranging consequences for the world of modified cars. But it’s also a notable reminder that, when you drive older cars, you inherently forfeit the safety features and crash structures of modern vehicles.