Drivers of sport utility vehicles (SUVs) are among the least likely to die in a crash, a dramatic shift from a generation ago, according to a report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) that analyzed driver traffic deaths by vehicle model.
In the 1980s, SUV driver death rates were much higher than those of cars because of rollover danger. Production of rollover-prone SUVs was stopped in the mid-1980s, and the vehicles had about the same death rates as cars in the 1990s. Death rates for SUVs began falling with the development of electronic stability control in the late 1990s, which was available as optional safety equipment on luxury vehicles and gradually became standard equipment for most SUVs by 2006, according to IIHS.
SUVs, minivans and large luxury cars are generally safer than small and mid-size sedans largely because of their weight and size, the institute says. All but three of the 26 cars with the lowest driver death rates are mid-size or larger, and more than half of the cars with the highest death rates are small vehicles or minicars.
Vehicle safety is among the factors that drive car insurance rates.
Results of the IIHS study
The IIHS examined driver-only death rates for vehicle model years 2005 to 2008 in traffic accidents from 2006 through 2009. Overall the driver death rate was 48 deaths per million registered vehicle years. A registered year is one vehicle registered for one year or two vehicles registered for six months each.
Rates for more than 150 vehicles ranged from 0, for seven models, to 143 for the Nissan 350Z sports car. Minivans had the best average record with 25 driver deaths per million registered vehicle years, followed by SUVs with 28 deaths. Pickups averaged 52 deaths, and cars averaged 56. Very large four-door cars average 46 deaths, and four-door minicars had a death rate of 82.
Risk varied widely among similar types of vehicles. For instance, one four-door midsize car, the Honda Accord, had a death rate of 19, versus the 2007 Chevrolet Malibu, which had a death rate of 99.
The 10 least deadly vehicles
The 10 least deadly vehicles and their death rates per million registered vehicle years were:
- Audi A6 4-door 4WD, 0
- Mercedes E-Class 4-door 4WD, 0
- Toyota Sienna, 0
- Ford Edge, 0
- Nissan Armada, 0
- Land Rover Range Rover Sport, 0
- Land Rover LR3, 0
- Honda CR-V, 7
- Jeep Grand Cherokee, 11
- Acura MDX, 11
The 10 deadliest vehicles
The vehicles with the highest risk and their death rates per million registered vehicle years were:
- Nissan 350Z 2-door, 143
- Nissan Titan crew cab, 126
- Chevrolet Aveo, 119
- Chevrolet Cobalt, 117
- Nissan Titan extended cab, 111
- Kia Spectra, 102
- Chevrolet Malibu Classic, 99
- Hyundai Tiburon, 96
- Nissan Versa, 96
- Chevrolet Colorado extended cab, 93