By on June 9, 2011

Forget crash test results, star ratings, or the number of acronym-laden electronic nanny systems that a vehicle has. If you’re a play-it-by-the-numbers kind of person and want to know safe a car is, statistically speaking, you’ll want to check out the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s new status report on “Dying In A Crash” [PDF].  The latest data comes from the 2006-2009 period, and includes only 2005-2008 model-year vehicles with at least 100,000 “registered vehicle years” in that time frame (if a vehicle was substantially redesigned in 2005-08, only the most recent design is included). Also,

researchers adjusted for a variety of factors that affect crash rates, including driver age and gender, calendar year, vehicle age, and vehicle density at the garaging location. Previously, researchers had adjusted only for driver age and gender.

“The adjusted driver death rates do abetter job of teasing out differences among vehicles, but they can only go so far. For one thing, people don’t behave the same when they’re behind the wheel of a sports car as when they’re driving a minivan. And some people are more susceptible to injury and death for reasons that can’t completely be adjusted for.”

Keep in mind that this data is for drivers only, since passenger data is harder to adjust for. Also, statistics don’t determine your safety on an individual level… that’s up to you every time you take the wheel. For more caveats (and the complete list), check out the report itself… or just wave this in front of your friends and family members who drive cars on the “highest rates of driver death” list, and hyperventilate at them. They’ll either thank you or tell you to take your nannyish concern elsewhere.

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63 Comments on “The Most And Least Died-In Vehicles Of 2006-2009...”


  • avatar
    John R

    Not surprised about the Z. I understand they have a tendency of getting away from some (novice) drivers.

    • 0 avatar
      aristurtle

      Eh, it’s almost certainly the fact that it’s the current vehicle of choice for idiots straight out of college, the way the Integra was ten years ago. Notice that the G35, which is essentially the same car with leather seats, isn’t on the list.

      Same explanation goes for the Tiburon. I am wondering why the Titan is up there so high, though.

      • 0 avatar
        indi500fan

        Titan is an major outlier on rollover frequency death. About 4x the typical.
        So it may be flawed stability control, high cg, roof strength, or combination.

      • 0 avatar
        segfault

        The early Titans had stability control only on the higher trim levels, as part of a very expensive package, so I’m sure the take rate was below 50%. They did the same thing with the current-gen Altima up until they finally made it standard in 2010.

      • 0 avatar
        aspade

        The Titan is a fun truck. They sold to young people who didn’t really need a truck, which is why sales collapsed when gas wasn’t free and credit started requiring credibility again.

        And unlike the other brands there are no V6 work trucks or $45K old man trims to bring the average back down.

        It’s not the arrow. It’s the indian.

    • 0 avatar
      evan

      This article is a fine demonstration of why ‘Numbers don’t speak for themselves’.

      I can personally vouch for the statement that Nissan 350Z drivers are among the – oh, how do you say it politely? – least skilled performance car drivers on the road. But yeah, with such a high death rate, it seems likely that there are other factors involved which pertain to how well the car performs during a crash, not just the ‘types’ of people who drive them. This is a bit odd, because for how small the car is, its really heavy, which would suggest that its also quite strong. Hmmmmmm. There’s a lot going on behind the numbers.

  • avatar
    Jellodyne

    I’ll have to tell my stepfather he dodged a bullet when he totaled his 350Z.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    The Titan versus the Armada has to be a demographic thing, since they’re almost the same vehicle. The Aveo, Cobalt, and Malibu all ranking high says something unfortunate about Chevy’s engineers, clientele, or both.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      What it probably says is that a lot of these models were sold to fleets…and fleet-bound GM cars of that era often didn’t have optional safety features, such as side curtain airbags. The Malibu in particular is the “Classic,” which was the last-gen model sold in 2008 to fleets, not the new one.

  • avatar
    Signal11

    WTF is up with the Nissan Titan?

    • 0 avatar
      Aqua225

      As a Titan owner, I think it is performance. It’s an Armada, but without the lead in the pants. The thing is pretty quick for a pickup (though the Tundra is quicker for last year). It will go into extra-legal territory with only minor prodding, and it has that “flog me harder” sound under the hood.

      Also, given it’s bargain price & top end motor on all versions, I suspect younger people drive it more, and do all sorts of bad things with them.

      It also is suprisingly solid in cornering, but I know better than to push it. It’s still a leviathan of the road, and logic says when your road hold lets go, it’s not going to be pretty.

      But to characterize my brother’s test drive of it, vs. his own Mini Cooper, he says it will run rings around his lightweight micro monster in a straight line.

      Basically, it’s the 350Z of trucks, a lot of cheap horsepower, and a cornering ability that makes people forget about the very real large amount of weight you’re pushing around.

      Anyway, my 5 cents as an owner of devotee of the Titan (the only way you’ll get me out of mine is if I am a statistic in next year’s Titan listing on this infamous report).

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    Accord, TL and RL all in the ‘safest’ list. Say what you will, but the platform is pretty consistent from a safety standpoint. Course, if you swap the Z drivers into the Accord-platform cars, that might change…

  • avatar
    windswords

    You wouldn’t think the Wrangler would be on the safest list. What does that say about the Wrangler, it’s engineers, it’s clientele, or both?

    • 0 avatar
      Antediluvianbaby

      Yeah the Wrangler is what first popped out for me on the list. I’ve always had a thing for those cars, but the lack of safety features and fuel efficiency and general hauling space make them an unrealistic option for me.
      Wrangler numbers in this case must be an example of typical driver behavior, because except for putting the driver up a little higher, Wranglers have never made passive safety a priority. Ever wondered how those little removable doors hold up in a side impact collision? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zYMGTcYR6o

    • 0 avatar
      windswords

      Although I don’t think the Wrangler is especially unsafe (it is what it is, and its owners know what compromises they are making when they buy one), my comment was really sarcasm aimed at a post made earlier.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I think it is that Jeeps are sufficiently scary to drive that no one pushes them very hard. When I drive one I feel like I am going to die at 35mph.

      My Uncle has a Titan, and I can totally see why they are on the bad list. It has lots of go, is pretty quiet and refined, and feels pretty good in the corners. But it is still a tall body-on-frame pickup, so when it lets go it is gonna be BAD. And then the likely very poor side-impact and roof crush performance kicks in. Also the fact that pickups always seem to be driven by yahoos not wearing seat belts.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Interesting stuff, but remember that this kind of statistic is all about correlations and not about cause and effect. The researchers tried to adjust for certain factors like driver age, sex and geography, but they are not able to adjust for other important factors.

    They mentioned one of the hardest to quantify factors, which is how the vehicle in question effects a person’s driving behavior. A Toyota Sienna does not encourage the same kind of driving behavior that a Corvette or Z-car does. So, the same person on the same roads may indeed be much more likely to crash a Z-car than they would be behind the wheel of a Sienna.

    The factors they didn’t mention include the personality and socio-economic status of various driving populations. There are reasons some insurance companies in some states are able to use credit scores as one of the factors in setting car insurance rates. People who are living on the ragged edge economically are more likely to crash their vehicles than are people with stellar credit scores, even after adjusting for other demographic factors. That might explain the crash and death rate difference between Kias and Hyundais, for example.

    Yet another factor is the personality profile of people who are attracted to a given brand and model. Two twenty nine year old males working at the same kind of job in the same company can have very different driving styles. One might be happily married with 2.5 kids, the other recently divorced, childless, and on the hunt (so to speak). Those two guys probably choose different vehicles and drive differently as well.

    So, this is the kind of data to use as interesting information, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Then again, nothing does.

    • 0 avatar
      stuntmonkey

      Actually in way the data does say something. As much as I love enthusiast cars as the next guy, I feel more and more that I wouldn’t want to be caught ‘dead’ in a wrecked Z. After a certain stage in life, it’s just not cool anymore.

    • 0 avatar
      Philosophil

      Good points.

    • 0 avatar
      MoppyMop

      If you go to the full report and look at the list of all cars you can find some interesting stuff. The hatchback Aveo’s death rate is almost half that of the 4-door; if we look at the Panthers, the Town Car and GrandMa are both around double that of the Crown Vic. That to me says this tells us more about the buyers of a given car than it does about that car’s inherent safety.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        In the case of the Panthers how much of that is due to the fact that the bulk of the CVs are Police cars which may be involved in a high speed chase, and of those CVs how many are because the dept didn’t feel that the optional built in roll over protection wasn’t worth the extra $$$.

      • 0 avatar
        aristurtle

        or, more likely, how many of those just have the problem common to most low-mileage P71 Crown Vics: a loose nut behind the steering wheel.

    • 0 avatar
      sitting@home

      It’d seem there is a lot of driver variance in the data still; The 4WD Pilot was only involved in multi-vehicle deaths, but the 2WD was mainly involved in single vehicle deaths. 48 drivers managed to roll a Mitsu Eclipse (which under-steers so much it can hardly turn a corner), yet no-one rolled a “Leaning Tower of Pisa” Land Rover ?

    • 0 avatar
      PenguinBoy

      Agreed that this chart doesn’t tell us about the cause of accidents – a bad result could indicate poor drivers, poor vehicles, or some combination of both.

      What it can be used for is to estimate the probability of a fatal accident, for whatever reason. I suspect the insurance companies will use it to set rates.

  • avatar
    Secret Hi5

    The 5 worst vehicles seem much worse than the rest. And I will make sure to avoid rental Aveos and Versas!

  • avatar
    AKADriver

    Most interesting to me is that some cars have jumped from one list to the other under the new methodology. The MX-5/Miata historically was ranked by the IIHS as a very low risk car; my insurance rates have always been rock bottom. The Subaru Legacy is another one… it’s a perennial “best pick” in IIHS’ crash test program.

    • 0 avatar
      Philosophil

      I found that strange as well, particularly the Subarus.

      • 0 avatar
        ThirdOwner

        For the Subarus, I think the report proves John Horner’s point that it’s more about the driver than the car. Compare the Legacy number (83) to that of the Outback (40). Twice the death rate in the (likely) sedan, which more often driven by younger, more aggressive drivers. Same platform and technology cars.

      • 0 avatar
        fozone

        I own both a Legacy and an Outback, it doesn’t surprise me that the former fares twice as badly.

        Platform-wise they are identical, but the Legacy cries out to be flogged in the corners. The Outback feels like a Town Car in comparison, and consequently we drive ours way less aggressively.

    • 0 avatar
      lawmonkey

      MX-5 owner here (somewhat not eager for tonight’s commute), and I wondered about this too. Best guess – insurance rates are also based on how much damage your car can do to someone else. Miata may be a wonderful little death machine, but the danger is one-sided at best.

      • 0 avatar
        Secret Hi5

        During the recent severe storms in Atlanta, two of the three fatalities occurred in a Miata. Two women in their Miata died when a tree fell on the car, right on the passenger compartment. Terribly unfortunate!

    • 0 avatar
      view2share

      I own a Miata MX-5 ’09 which seems rather sturdy, yet not tested in any crash test so far. The insurance payouts are low, so they give decent rates. Now as far as deaths I can see how an SUV may 86 me.

      I just looked again at the insurance data, and the little car is rate substantially better than average, to better than average for personal injury protection, and medical payout. Of course if you are dead, there is no payout, I would suppose.

      I am looking at future cars: Mustang v6, Challenger or Charger, Hyundai Genesis Coupe, and VW Golf. Of all those cars, it seems the lowest insurance payouts are for the Golf. I take it to be sturdy and the drivers to be safer perhaps. Mustang and Charger or Challenger, seem OK in crash tests, but on the road have high rate of problems for insurance companies, which must mean high crash rates — poor drivers? Wouldn’t Golf owners be young as well? Would like a GTi but not the cost, the engine 2.o known to burn oil, and the premium gas, with lower MPG — nope I think Golf standard for me. Would trade in the Accord and keep the Miata perhaps.

  • avatar
    LeeK

    No Volvos? How curious…

    • 0 avatar
      Chicago Dude

      I wonder if there just isn’t enough data to get a statistically valid number. Volvo doesn’t sell very many cars in the US and I doubt very many of them crash in a given year.

      The IIHS (author of this study) gives Volvo very high crash ratings in the Volvo cars that they bother to test. As far as I can tell, they haven’t crash tested a Volvo station wagon in almost a decade.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Nice stats. It just goes to show that the driver is still the predominant safety variable in this equation.

    • 0 avatar
      sastexan

      @carguy: Yes, but most likely this report will just be used by the insurance companies to increase the ratings of certain vehicles. Lord knows they won’t reduce the ratings on others to offset it.

  • avatar
    JMII

    Oh the irony of this list unreal – I have Dakota Quad Cab, a ride my father refused to buy because it had (has?) a terrible safety rating, yet clearly not many die in it. And this fall I plan on buying a 350Z, which appears to be a one way ticket to my grave :( let’s see: small, powerful, rear wheel car, yep death trap. SUVs are safe says the data, but I wonder what the crash/accident rate is. These ill handling, slow, top heavy vehicles must crash all the time, but when you do hit something it is the other vehicle that suffers.

    And yes the lack of Volvos on the safe list seems odd, I know the doors on my C30 are easily the heaviest of any car (or truck) I’ve owned. The front end and engine bay seem overbuilt, however the roof seems weak.

    • 0 avatar
      ThirdOwner

      The heft of Volvo’s doors is one reason why I like them of all the modern cars. They just feel like ‘real’ cars of old days, similar to my ’95 E-class.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      The only Volvo they published numbers for was the XC90. It got a 28, which is good overall, but it ranked low against other SUVs.

      • 0 avatar
        segfault

        That’s weird, IIRC it used to rank near the top. I would like to see how older cars compare to newer ones, but I understand it’s difficult to adjust for demographics as cars get passed on to their second, third, and fourth owners.

        It’s also strange how cars on the same platform (G6/Malibu Classic, Aura/New Malibu, Rio/Accent) rate differently. The sample size may account for some of these variations.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    Interesting that there are no Fords in the high risk chart, other than the Ranger, which isn’t surprising given it’s an ancient small pickup, but plenty of GM product. Can’t wait to see how Silvy spins that.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    Hondas are all over the safest side of the lists. Nissans are all over the deadliest. Someone is building cars to a radically flawed physics model, or building them with substandard materials.

    • 0 avatar
      aristurtle

      Or, alternatively, the sort of people that buy a 350Z do not have the same driving style as those who buy an Odyssey. If it was a question of Nissan’s engineering, we’d expect to see some Infiniti models up there in the “deaderest” list, too, but there’s none there.

      I want to know where the Accord Coupe ended up. The 4-door version is on the “safest” list, but I’ve got a hunch that the coupe just barely missed the “least safe” threshold. Unfortunately, it looks like they didn’t collect any data on the coupe.

      (The Titan’s numbers are bewildering, though, I’ll give you that.)

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        You make a good argument for stupid people making the choices that lead to them dying in car accidents. Extended cab pickups, Versas, Maximas; oh yeah, these are the transports of wannabe racing drivers!

        As for the two v. four door attempt at a fabrication, read the tables. They absolutely looked at each body style of each model that met the volume threshold. Did you notice that they broke the Titan into Extended and Crew cab models and each variation still made the high death rate list? You think they care how big the back doors are on a pickup but can’t tell a coupe from a sedan? Did you notice that the segment stats count doors too?

      • 0 avatar
        aristurtle

        Yes, and did you notice that the Accord 2-door doesn’t show up in the extended data when you download the PDF? They only showed numbers for the 4-door, even on the extended list where they show all the cars they collected information for.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        It must not have met the volume threshold, but it still doesn’t explain your psychic friends BS about your hunch that the Accord Coupe had an elevated driver death rate. Pure fiction is not a supporting argument, at least outside of the world of liberals. Keep it in mind when you try to move outside of your circles.

  • avatar
    Jimmy7

    Buick Lacrosses are listed that high? Did they include deaths by natural causes?

  • avatar

    Funny how Wrangler is one of the safer ones, considering all the dumb tricks we jeepers do all the time. My jeep is not overloaded with airbags, and the side impact protection is nil (heck some drive without doors at all, and I am thinking about installing half-doors). Admittedly, when you roll down a rock into a creek, the speed of the impact may be less than in a Z that runs wide in a right hand corner and enters the oncoming lane…

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    I don’t think anyone has commented on the better numbers for 4wd vehicles vs 2wd. I have argued that the Suzuki Grand Vitara, which pays a mileage penalty for always running in AWD, may be a better purchase than similar cuv’s that get better mileage because they are normally in 2wd; because the 4wd/AWD Grand Vitara provides better control and therefore is less likely to be in an accident. Aren’t the best rally cars 4wd?

    (Caveats) Maybe 4wd vehicles may be more upscale and therefore may come equipped with more airbags. Maybe older folks have 4wd because they can afford the price premium. Maybe 4wd vehicles have lower centers of gravity. Maybe 4wd vehicles are more likely to be driven in bad conditions, or on worse roads, or in a more risky fashion.

    • 0 avatar
      Truckducken

      That is baffling. 4WD does provide better handling at the limits for a skilled driver, but for most it appears to be a route to exceeding steering and braking thresholds more rapidly in poor weather. The sheer volume of anecdotal evidence regarding the number of 4WD vehicles in the ditch during snowstorms is pretty compelling. And yet the stats say the darn things might be safer…who knew? Maybe the 4WD editions are more likely to include stability control, or come with better tires. Other than that, I got nothin’.

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        4WD does provide better handling at the limits for a skilled driver . . .

        I was actually thinking the opposite. 4WD provides more forgiving handling than RWD at the limit to benefit an unskilled driver, but a skilled driver will go faster around a track with a RWD version of the same car, except in traction-limited situations like rally racing where 4WD allows much faster acceleration.

    • 0 avatar

      Grand Vitara has a conventional layout and a 2-speed transfer case. It is the only of CUVs on the market that has actual 4WD and not AWD. You may be thinking of Subarus.

  • avatar

    What is reliability for an S550?
    How bought for a 300cSRT8?

    Even though there were driver deaths, the numbers were relatively low when you think about what they used to be. I say just issue Darwin awards and move on!

  • avatar
    jj99

    All the transmission defects in Fords must be saving lives. If the transmission goes, you can’t drive it, and you don’t die in a car crash. Can’t wait till the new Mustang and Fusion transmission defects make them safe.

  • avatar

    A small car must be very well designed to prevent deaths.
    An SUV just has to stay on the road. Steel protects by absorbing collision energy and preventing intrusion into the passenger compartment.
    Since cars are being force to get better mpg, they are going to get smaller. There will be more fatalities.

    Carbon fiber does not absorb collision energy.
    I have invented a way to use polyurethane foam to make a small car seem bigger in a collision.

    http://www.safersmallcars.com

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    Having just skimmed the comments, I read many of them yesterday but don’t remember where I left off, I’m not sure if this idea has been explicitly stated or alluded to and apologize for a duplication of the above is the case.

    “Forget crash test results, star ratings, or the number of acronym-laden electronic nanny systems that a vehicle has.” Personally, I think this chart might be interesting if there was a way to combine the overall safety ratings and safety systems included on the cars (say the features typically found in the cars bought with a given nameplate – maybe not all the features of the top end trim, but the trim most people buy) with the number of deaths.

    The reason this might be interesting is because I wonder if people become complacent when driving because they have the extra safety features which might lead to a greater amount of accidents, or if the two are not related in any way. I’m sure there are inherently unsafe cars on the road, but with the prevelance of safety features (TSC, ESC, ABS and the others that I’m not familiar enough with to place here) I’m sure there are people who say, “I’ve got XYZ and I don’t need to be as careful.”

    I apologize if this post is in any way unclear, but I’m sure you guys can see where I’m going with this.


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