Safest & Most Dangerous Cars, According to IIHS

A recent study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has found safety on the rise, with reported driver deaths on the decline! Until the year 2006, there were no reported crashes with driver death rates of zero. Today, with the issuance of this report from IIHS, there are nine — NINE — models with zero driver deaths 2009 and 2012. I don’t know about you, dear blog reader, but from where we stand (in Winchester, Virginia), a 900 percent increase is something to talk about! Not only that, but overall vehicle crash related fatalities have fallen by a third in the past three years.

“This is a huge improvement in just three years, even considering the economy’s influence,” said David Zuby, IIHS executive vice president and chief research officer. “We know from our vehicle ratings program that crash test performance has been getting steadily better. These latest death rates provide new confirmation that real-world outcomes are improving, too.”

What makes a car safer, or more dangerous?

While the cars on the “more dangerous” list are generally less expensive to purchase than those on the “safer” list, cost is not the deciding factor here. What matters more, found IIHS, is the size of the car on the road. Compact sedans and minicars comprise the majority of the vehicles with higher rates of driver deaths. Six of the nine cars on the other list — a full two-thirds — are SUVs.

That’s quite the shift from the decade’s past rollover crisis, when sport utility vehicles had the highest — not the lowest — driver death rates due to top heavy design. What changed? Electronic stability control (ESC), that’s what. Once a safety feature found only in expensive, high-end vehicles ESC now comes standard. In the seven years between 2004 and 2011, the rollover death rate has been reduced by more than 75 percent.

Highest Rates of Driver Deaths per Million Registered Vehicles

For 2011 and equivalent earlier models, as studied in the years 2009–2012

  1. Kia Rio (4-door car, mini): 149
  2. Nissan Versa sedan (4-door car, small): 130
  3. Hyundai Accent (4-door car, mini): 120
  4. Chevrolet Aveo (4-door car, mini): 99
  5. Hyundai Accent (2-door car, mini): 86
  6. Chevrolet Camaro coupe (sports car, large) 80
  7. Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Crew 4WD (pickup, large): 79
  8. Honda Civic (2-door car, small): 76
  9. Nissan Versa hatchback (4-door car, small): 71
  10. Ford Focus (4-door car, small): 70

But on the flip side…

Lowest Rates of Drive Deaths per Million Registered Vehicles

For 2011 and equivalent earlier models, as studied in the years 2009–2012

  1. Audi A4 4WD (luxury car, midsize): 0
  2. Honda Odyssey (minivan, very large): 0
  3. Kia Sorento 2WD (SUV, midsize): 0
  4. Lexus RX 350 4WD (luxury SUV, midsize): 0
  5. Mercedes-Benz GL-Class 4WD (luxury SUV, large): 0
  6. Subaru Legacy 4WD (4-door car, midsize): 0
  7. Toyota Highlander hybrid 4WD (SUV, midsize): 0
  8. Toyota Sequoia 4WD (SUV, large): 0
  9. Volvo XC90 4WD (luxury SUV, midsize): 0
  10. Honda Pilot 4WD (SUV, midsize): 2
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