As buyers, we tend to focus on the crash test ratings and safety features of a given model to gain an understanding of its safety. That is a fine way to consider a purchase. However, there is one other way. That is to look at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) list of vehicles people die in most often, and avoid them in favor of cars that people don’t die in. Some of the most dangerous models on the list are surprising. Some vehicles have had zero driver deaths.
How IIHS Rates Vehicles Driver Death Rates
IIHS compiles date from Polk, NHTSA and HDLI to tally how many drivers are killed in each model. Passengers are not counted to keep things relative since not all crashes have passengers. The most recent ratings cover vehicle model years 2008-2011. There are previous reports covering older models we can use for perspective. The older lists are also helpful to those shopping for older used cars.
IIHS explains its rating system, saying “Rates are given as the number of driver deaths per million registered vehicle years. (A registered vehicle year is one vehicle registered for one year.) To increase the exposure and thereby improve the accuracy of the calculations, results are included for the previous three model years if the vehicle wasn’t substantially redesigned during that time.” Let’s get right to the good part.
Vehicles In Which You Are Most Likely To Meet Your Fate
If you are like me, your mind has already said “Corvette.” Yes, the Corvette has had its share of sad outcomes. However, it is not at the top of the IIHS list this year. That would be the Kia Rio, which has a death rate of 149 per million registered vehicles. The Corvette is not listed in the new update, but in the prior report in 2008 it was a relatively safe car with a rate of 69. The Nissan 370Z, by contrast, had a 143 rating in that report. That is about three times the average death rate.
The new Camaro coupe rates an 80 in the new report. In older reports, such as the 1997 report, the Camaro had a whopping 420, which tied the Corvette back then. If you want a wake-up call, consider that the 1996, 1997 Ford Explorer had a rating of 231. Right next to it on the list is the Jeep Cherokee at a respectable 74. That means you were three times more likely to die in the Ford compared to the similar Jeep.
Small Car Safety
In the small car category, the 2010-2011 Toyota Prius scores a very low 16 deaths per million, and the Corolla is below the category average at 32. By contrast, the Nissan Versa comes in at 130. You would be much safer in a Chevrolet Suburban than a Prius though, right? Wrong, the 2008-2011 “Beer Burn” comes in at 60. So you are about four times more likely to be killed in a ginormous SUV than a pipsqueak hybrid.
Safest Vehicles – Zero Driver Deaths
Looking at the positive news, nobody died in the US in the 2010-2011 Lexus RX 350AWD during the three-year study period. It is not alone. There are eight more popular models in which the death rate was zero. They are the Toyota Highlander AWD, Toyota Sequoia AWD, Audi A4 AWD (are you noticing the AWD trend yet), Volvo XC90 AWD, Mercedes Benz GL-Class AWD, Subaru Legacy AWD, Kia Sorento, and Honda Odyssey.
View the full report at the IIHS site.