Smaller cars don't protect drivers as well as larger ones, report says
The smallest cars on the road tend to be the most dangerous ones, concludes a new report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Among 2014 vehicles, minicars had particularly high rates of driver deaths compared to other models, while larger luxury vehicles had some of the lowest rates.
Four-door minicars averaged 87 driver deaths per million registered vehicle years, the highest overall death rate of any vehicle category. In contrast, four-wheel-drive luxury SUVs fared the best with an average of just 6 driver deaths. To put things into perspective, the overall rate was 30 deaths among vehicles from the 2014 model year.
Among individual models, the Hyundai Accent sedan had the highest rate of driver deaths at 104, followed closely by the Kia Rio sedan at 102 and the now-discontinued Scion tC at 101. Rounding out the top 15 in order of driver deaths were the Chevrolet Spark, Nissan Versa, Ford Fiesta sedan, Kia Soul, Dodge Challenger, Nissan Titan Crew Cab short bed 4WD, Nissan Sentra, Ford Focus sedan, Chrysler 200, Hyundai Genesis coupe, Ford Fiesta five-door, and Hyundai Accent five-door.
A number of vehicles averaged zero driver deaths, including the A6 all-wheel-drive, Audi Q7 all-wheel drive, BMW 535i/is/xi, Jeep Cherokee four-wheel drive, Lexus CT 200h, Lexus RX 350 front-wheel drive, Mazda CX-9 front-wheel drive, Mercedes-Benz M-Class all-wheel drive, Toyota Tacoma Double Cab long bed four-wheel drive, and Volkswagen Tiguan front-wheel drive. All-wheel-drive versions of the Lexus RX and Ford Explorer, as well as the Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan, also performed well with five or fewer deaths.
IIHS looked at deaths that occurred from 2012-2015. Although IIHS was looking at 2014 model-year vehicles, it also used data from earlier models as far back as 2011 if the vehicles weren’t substantially changed before 2014. The agency says including these older models in the study increases the available data and the reliability of the results. Individual models are only included in the study if they have been around long enough to record at least 100,000 registered vehicle years or if there are at least 20 associated deaths.
Road fatalities have been declining since the early 1970s as vehicles become safer, but an improving economy after the latest recession has brought the death toll up again. In 2015, deaths jumped 7 percent from the previous year, and early data indicates the upward trend continued for 2016. After looking at economic and employment forecasts, IIHS predicts traffic fatalities will decline just slightly in the coming years.
Check out the full report here.