The phrase “speed kills” is something you often hear when it comes to car accidents, but it turns out how fast you’re going isn’t the only factor in whether a crash proves to be fatal. A new three-year study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that crash fatality rates are much higher for drivers in small cars compared with drivers in larger vehicles like pickup trucks, SUVs, and minivans.
“Smaller vehicles offer less protection for the driver in crashes, and their lighter mass means that they take the brunt of collisions with larger vehicles,” Joe Nolan, senior vice president of vehicle research at the IIHS, said in a statement.
Driver Death Rates by Car Type
The study measured driver death rates over time by looking at how many drivers died in each car type per million registered vehicle years. For all vehicle types, the average driver death rate was 36 deaths per million registered vehicle years. Broken down by vehicle type, the final numbers are:
- Cars ─ 48 deaths per million registered vehicle years
- Pickup trucks ─ 29 deaths per million registered vehicle years
- SUVs ─ 25 deaths per million registered vehicle years
- Minivans ─ 22 deaths per million registered vehicle years
Which Vehicles Had the Lowest Death Rates?
There were seven vehicles that registered statistically zero deaths over the three-year period of the study. Those vehicles are:
- Yukon XL
- Infiniti QX60
- Land Rover Range Rover Evoque
- Lexus NX 200t
- Mercedes-Benz C-Class
- Porsche Cayenne
- Volkswagen Golf
The Golf is particularly notable as an exception to the overall trend of more drivers dying in smaller cars. The Nissan Leaf is another small car that defied the trend, with only five deaths per million registered vehicle years.
Other vehicles singled out for low death rates include:
- Lexus GX (three deaths)
- Subaru Outback (three deaths)
- Acura RDX (four deaths)
Which Vehicles Had the Highest Death Rates?
The Ford Fiesta had the highest number of driver deaths per million registered vehicle years with 141. The nine other cars with the highest number of driver deaths are:
- Hyundai Accent (116 deaths)
- Chevrolet Sonic (98 deaths)
- Nissan Versa Note (96 deaths)
- Fiat 500 (95 deaths)
- Hyundai Elantra (89 deaths)
- Kia Forte (89 deaths)
- Nissan Versa (88 deaths)
- Kia Rio (87 deaths)
- Ford Mustang GT (81 deaths)
About the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Three-Year Investigation
The IIHS, which is funded by the car insurance industry, looked at crash data from about 150,000 driver fatalities over the three years of the study. The idea was to give consumers an additional data point to look at when evaluating vehicles for potential purchase. It is important to note that the study focused on driver fatalities and did not include passenger deaths in the final figures.
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