By on April 28, 2017

2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon

Earlier this week, I told you about the fellow who was convinced the Dodge Demon was unsafe at any speed. I did not agree, of course; the Demon has been carefully designed to present considerably less risk to its occupants than, say, a swing-axle Beetle in high-wind conditions.

Which leads to a question: if the Demon is not the deadliest car of recent times, what is?

Former TTAC contributor Doug DeMuro said that the Carrera GT was the most dangerous car on the road. A few years later, somebody actually let him drive a Carrera GT, at which point he changed his mind and said that it was the greatest car ever made. I think we can safely discount both of these opinions.

My personal vote for deadliest car of the modern era: the second-gen Ford Explorer, when the tires were (under)inflated to the factory spec of 26psi against Firestone’s preferred pressure of 35psi. The way I always think of the old Ford Explorers is as 1988 Ford Rangers that were loaded way past their original design specs thanks to the additional glass, metal, seating, and people — then driven in traffic like they were Corvettes on Hoosier slicks by their mostly female owner base.

That last point is significant, because very few cars are dangerous when they are driven in a sensible manner by people who are alert and aware of their peculiarities. The old VW Beetles could and did exit the road ass-first under heavy wind but most people who owned them knew to keep the speeds low in those conditions, the same way you would if you were riding a sportbike. The same is true of 3/4-ton pickups on load-rated tires.

What’s your vote for today’s four-wheeled “widowmaker”?

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81 Comments on “QOTD: The Greatest Killer of All Time?...”


  • avatar
    06M3S54B32

    It’s not fast enough to out run its own ugliness. Those “retro cars” all look frigging hideous.

    • 0 avatar
      twotone

      Let’s look at real world data instead of opinions:

      According to IIHS:

      MOST FATALITIES
      Vehicle / Number of deaths per million registered vehicle years

      Kia Rio / 149
      Nissan Versa / 130
      Hyundai Accent / 120
      Chevrolet Aveo / 99
      Hyundai Accent / 86
      Chevrolet Camaro / 80
      Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Crew 4WD / 79
      Honda Civic / 76
      Nissan Versa hatchback / 71
      Ford Focus / 70

      More data here:

      http://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/driver-death-rates

      • 0 avatar
        ACCvsBig10

        Looks like compact and subcompact cars lead the way.

        Maybe instead trying to add all these drivers assist tech they should focus on making inflatable bubble ball that can deploy around occupants in the event of crash.

        • 0 avatar
          CarnotCycle

          So lots of subcompacts, and the Camaro – which is like instrument flying in a cloud visibility wise, I am not surprised its on the list.

          But the Chevy quarter ton crewcab? Gotta be a story behind that datapoint.

          • 0 avatar
            la834

            The fifth and sixth (current) generation Camaro was my pick too. You can’t see out of the thing.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            The Silverado is the “half-ton.” The “quarter-ton” is the Colorado.

            But yeah, there’s something to be said there.

      • 0 avatar
        Jagboi

        Some interesting things show up. Under the 2008 data, the Crown Victoria has a death rate of 33. Yet the mechanically identical Mercury Grand Marquis has a death rate of 57.

        Moving to 2011 the difference is even greater: Crown Vic rate is 4 and the Grand Marquis is 57. Obviously there are greater factors involved than vehicle design.

        • 0 avatar
          -Nate

          Not as many Blue Hairs driving Panthers, right ? .
          .
          -Nate

          • 0 avatar
            Lorenzo

            Not as many pimps and drug dealers either. Does being shot in a Marquis by police or rivals count as a traffic death?

        • 0 avatar
          vaujot

          Could be random distribution.

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          …Obviously there are greater factors involved than vehicle design…

          Of course. Instrumented tests remove the human factor and provide repeatable data to evaluate how a design performs. Real world data includes human behavior and the variables of different kinds of crashes and the mix of hazards that you encounter on the road. Years ago the IIHS noted that two door Dodge Shadows had a rollover rate four times that of the four door variety. The only difference? The age of the registered owners. That is why the cry of bigger is better is a mixed bag. It used to be that the 4000 lb car was the “safe” monster. Now, because of vehicle bloat, that 4000 lb car is a middleweight. At some point the “arms race’ of dumb mass has to end.

          • 0 avatar
            Lorenzo

            I remember a gasoline ad (yes, they used to advertise) where a cab driver in a 1960s Plymouth Belvedere would say, “This car weighs about two tons all told, but one speck of dirt in the fuel can bring it to a stop.”

            The point of the ad was detergent gasoline (“Atlantic keeps your car on the go”), but my point is, virtually all full-sized, and many mid-sized cars were in the 4000 lb. range since the late 1950s.

            The unibody lightened cars, but crash and roof strength standards put the weight right back on. This is why automakers complain about tightening emissions and mileage standards: they can’t go back to 2500 lb. cars like a ’83 Honda (and you don’t want to be in one in a crash).

        • 0 avatar
          slap

          Crown Vics were used by police, government, and taxi drivers. Grand Marquis were bought by older people.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          “Moving to 2011 the difference is even greater: Crown Vic rate is 4 and the Grand Marquis is 57. Obviously there are greater factors involved than vehicle design.”

          yes. Crown Vic retail sales ended in 2007, after that it was fleet only.

      • 0 avatar
        carguy

        @twotone: I remember the Chevy Blazer Sport exceeded / 300.

      • 0 avatar
        Salzigtal

        It appears as if the purchasers of the Chevrolet Camaro & Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Crew 4WD override the laws of physics.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        This doesn’t tell the whole story. The Kia Rio, Nissan Versa, Hyundai Accent, Chevrolet Aveo Hyundai Accent (twice???), Honda Civic, Nissan Versa hatchback and Ford Focus are more likely to be driven younger drivers with minimal experience, who tend to take more risks and get in more accidents.

        The Chevrolet Camaro needs no explanation.

        The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Crew with 4WD? That’s kind of weird – definitely a story there.

        • 0 avatar
          cls12vg30

          It occurs to me that the Rio, Versa, Accent & Focus are among the most common cars in rental fleets. Might that be a factor as well? People driving unfamiliar cars in unfamiliar places, and perhaps driving aggressively because it’s a rental?

      • 0 avatar
        RHD

        The Hyundai Accent is so deadly, it made the list twice!

      • 0 avatar
        desertsoldier22

        Does not necessarily mean the cars are actually dangerous. Most of the cars on that list are either some of the most sold cars on the road, or the cars most teenagers learn to drive in.

    • 0 avatar
      fasteddie2020

      But….Faster than a Tesla…and almost as quick!

  • avatar
    Steve Lynch

    Any beige Buick.

    You would have to live in Arizona to understand….

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Heavy-duty pickups with more power than brakes, towing large trailers, driven by people who have never had any commercial driving training.

    When you’re towing, the probability of something going wrong increases exponentially with speed. Europeans tow giant campers with asthmatic tiny diesel wagons with very little trouble mostly because they are usually legally restricted to between 50 and 62 mph while towing, with strict enforcement. Commercial heavy-truck operations limit their machines to 65 mph partly because it saves fuel, but partly because it dramatically lowers the accident rate. Commercial drivers’ license instruction is much heavier on speed limits and safe turning speeds than what you get from that creepy teacher in high school. lOver 70 mph, even the best truck/trailer combinations start to get squirrelly much more often, and the remedy of “stay on the gas” gets far less effective when they do.

    Yet we have these 450-hp “light”-duty diesel monsters that have zero trouble getting themselves and twice their weight in trailer to 95 or 100 mph. And untrained yahoos think that because they can, they should. The predictable result is carnage as trailer tires blow out, wobbles turn into jackknifes, and brakes can’t keep it together downhill. Fewer of the accidents may be fatal to the trucks’ drivers than you would see with supercars, but there is much more danger to innocent bydrivers on the freeway.

  • avatar
    tonycd

    I don’t know if the Bronco II qualifies as “modern era,” but I’d be willing to bet it was even more treacherous than the Gen 2 Explorer, insofar as it exhibited even more of the same qualities with the high center of gravity and asymmetrical suspension making it a world-class flipper. IIRC, the Samurai got the attention at the time, but the Bronco II statistically had much higher real-world rollover rates than the Samurai, or anything else for that matter.

    In general, you can answer this question from two basic categories:
    •Old-school BOF SUVs like these, because of their road behavior. (Editing to Dal’s comment, old-school jacked-up pickups are equally applicable here.)
    •Poorly engineered econoboxes, because of their poor crashworthiness.

    Getting more recent than the Pinto, the Smart comes to mind. If you’re in any kind of a head-on, there aren’t enough airbags in the world to mitigate the total lack of crush space in that thing.

    • 0 avatar
      zipster

      Tony:

      Find the video of the Smart hitting the barrier at 70 mph and the . door being easily opened immediately after. It is amazing.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Just one more of the many reasons why the Smart is a product for people who do almost all of their driving on 25 mph city streets.

      If you park every day on the street in the city, it’s AMAZING. Otherwise, it’s pointless.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Smart was quite popular in Geneva.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        Yeah. I saw a Smart Car with two people in it myself just yesterday in a little rural town, following me in my old Ranger. Neither person was young and the driver was in his 60s. Meaning you cannot stereotype a car for a given customer type nor can you stereotype a given customer type for a specific vehicle; people WILL surprise you, as Toyota quickly discovered with the Scion.

      • 0 avatar
        MLS

        A colleague commutes in a Smart car an hour each way, on the highway, from her suburban home to our company’s suburban campus. I won’t ever understand that vehicle purchase.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          “A colleague commutes in a Smart car an hour each way,…”

          You may not understand it, but I’m betting she loves it for the ability to park it just about anywhere and the great fuel economy.

  • avatar
    SpeedJebus

    *Cheap shot incoming*

    Any Mustang at a car meet.

    Real opinion:

    Most dangerous to everyone else on the road, but not necessarily the vehicle’s own occupants?

    Any jacked-up “brodozer” truck involved in a collision with a normal-sized vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      Truckducken

      Funny story: on the way to the ski hill last winter, my son came across a two-vehicle wreck involving a Prius and a Chevy 2500. Guess who won? Well, the Chevy had been lifted, and when it hit the Prius the body and the wheels separated at the lift kit, leaving the body to tumble a few times before coming to a stop. Looked pretty bad. Meanwhile, the Prius had a couple of dented panels but looked thoroughly drivable. And Darwin smiled.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Sad to say, a lot of lift kits and the like are just not designed well. These aftermarket part that may be poorly designed, or improperly installed do create a hazard. Not to mention when a lifted truck pulls up next to me. I’m looking at the rocker panels. Kind of scary.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Judging by the comments on yesterday’s​ “Ask Jack” I’ll say Lincoln Town Car.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      T-bones only. And fatalities not discussed. I only went there because it bugs me when people decide an empirical result doesn’t exist or isn’t worth understanding because they don’t like it.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Rear engine Porsche for most of the companies history.

    WWII Era Tatras. So dangerous that the wehrmacht forbid officers from driving the ones they had been confiscating.

    • 0 avatar
      chuckrs

      My thought too. Imagine the thrills if you could retrofit a modern Porsche H6 into an SWB swing axle Porsche. Like an old Beetle on steroids.
      I don’t think the YellowBird was a swing axle, but Stefan Roser’s hot lap of Nurburgring showed they still didn’t have it right when he did it in 1987. In the video, don’t look at where the car is going, look at where the steering wheel is going. Yikes!

      • 0 avatar
        baconator

        YellowBird was based on a 3.2L Carrera shell. It had a semi-trailing arm rear suspension, just like every 911 up through 1994. Porsche didn’t introduce the multi-link kinematic toe suspension until the 993 came out for ’95.

        People put modern 3.6 and 3.8L 911 motors into older SWB shells all the time. I think the setup I’ve seen the most in vintage racing is a 2.7 bored out to 2.8L with twin-plug heads, sometimes with a turbo stuck on. There are some fairly terrifying cars in the higher PCA classes, 2200-pound gutted shells with 450 horsepower motors and huge rear wings to keep the oversteer at bay in fast corners.

    • 0 avatar
      la834

      Good one! I’d forgotten about pre-wwII Tatras.

  • avatar
    George B

    Hi-Riser cars where most of the budget was spent on insanely big wheels.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hi-Riser_(automobile)
    Stock brakes and suspension can’t handle angular momentum of the big wheels and the higher center of gravity doesn’t help.

  • avatar

    Obvious objective choice: 1991-01 Ford Explorer. ESPECIALLY the short-wheelbase version.

    Ford kinda skated on responsibility for designing a vehicle with too high a center of gravity, and then to compensate, set tire pressure at 26 PSI.

    True, Firestone should not have put a tire on the market that might come apart at what is realistically a tire pressure you’d see on many vehicles simply because of owner neglect. They bear responsibility too. But had Ford properly designed the Explorer…no problem.

    A friend danced the following dance for years: Owner of a SWB Explorer Sport, every time he got his oil changed, the quick lube jockey would gauge the tires to 32 PSI. And every time he got home, he’d have to regauge them to 26 because it was unstable at 32.

    • 0 avatar
      dividebytube

      I used to drive a ’97 Mountaineer – that vehicle always felt tippy if taken too hard in a corner.

      A few years later driving a ’98 Toyota T100 – it seemed liked a cornering demon in comparison.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        A wider truck without NEARLY as much weight at the height an SUV has actually feels more stable in corners than a BOF SUV? Wow. That’s amazing. Its almost as though the laws of physics do apply.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      So then why did GoodYear-equippped Explorers have a phonominally lower instance of rollover? Why aren’t all of them rolled over by now if it was a design flaw?

      Can you find a BOF SUV that doesn’t feel tipsy in cornering? Go drive the Explorer’s competition from the era like Isuzu Trooper, Cherokee even though it was a unibody/BOF hybrid, S10 Blazer, 4Runner, hell even a hardtop Chevy/Geo Tracker will feel tipsy when pushed.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Any vehicle whose driver has a BAC over 0.00.

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      You misspelled 0.10.

      https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/811654

      “For 70 percent of alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities,
      at least one driver in the crash had a BAC of .15 grams
      per deciliter or higher.

      ■ The most frequently recorded BAC among all
      drinking drivers in fatal crashes in 2010 was .18
      g/dL, more than twice the legal limit in every State.1”

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        No, I was referring to the fact that impairment begins with the first drink – which everyone thinks doesn’t apply to themselves.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          There’s a really big difference between the degrees of impairment at .02, .04, and .06.

          I don’t think most drivers are significantly dangerous at .02.

          But I think a .05 limit would be completely reasonable.

          By the time you’re at .079 you’re a menace.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    Any vehicle with a young driver doing stupid things. I know I’m lucky to be alive, but there were a two kids in my high school who never made it to graduation. And one, not soon after school, who ended up in a wheelchair for life after the Buick G-body he was riding in flipped in a one-car accident.

  • avatar
    jack4x

    Gen 1 and 2 Vipers.

    -400-450 hp when that was Lamborghini level, not diesel pickup/Luxury SUV level.
    -Minimal safety equipment (the first cars had no ABS, airbags, windows, roof, electronic aids of any kind, etc)
    -Price was attainable enough that it didn’t take long for them to end up in irresponsible hands.
    -They are tricky to drive at the limit

    Awesome cars but not to be taken lightly…

    • 0 avatar
      Tele Vision

      An old boss bought a Gen I Viper. He ping-ponged it from curb to curb on a one-apex onramp. $4000 in wheels and tires – in 1993. That’s about a million bones today.

  • avatar
    C W

    More a tire death-trap story than an auto death-trap story…

    but the high-MPG OEM Potenza 165-65/14 tires on my 1st-generation Honda Insight, combined with any pavement moisture at all, were an adventure in pucker factor: taking a corner in town at anything above Grandpa pace would send that car skittering sideways like a go-cart.

    (Way back when, I owned a swing-axle Beetle, too: it could be a handful, sure, but it never did THAT…)

    Switched out the Insight’s tires to Michelins, and problem solved.

  • avatar
    Hooligans

    It’s a challenging question to answer without considering driver behavior. If the statistics show that most fatalities occur in Rios, Versas etc., then what if a large percentage of those occupants were killed in collisions with the aforementioned poorly driven “brodozer”? (Of which there are many)

    Which one would be the deadly vehicle in the spirit of Jack’s question?

  • avatar
    Joss

    Those mini off road things the kids ride & roll in the dirt. Forget what they call em. The doctors hate the whole thing.

  • avatar
    never_follow

    Beige Corollas. Followed closely by brodozers – both for completely different reasons, but both are a menace to public safety.

  • avatar
    Carzzi

    The Internet is the greatest killer of all available time.

  • avatar
    Maymar

    The answer is Church Van, isn’t it? I mean, gross generalization for 15-18 passenger Econolines and Savanas, but still, outdated van with a ton of excess rear weight, in the hands of an untrained driver have proven to be a bit of a problem.

    • 0 avatar
      mikeg216

      This, especially the e-350 extended. Almost all insurance companies require you to take out the furthest rear seat before they’ll insure it. Some require a driver training program. 15 full size Americans = overloaded.. Add in a luggage rack or trailer for church trip and if you swerve at highway speeds.. You’re going to be tossing bodies all over the place

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        Was driving a 15-pac one time when the left rear blew on the freeway at 65mph… Passengers wondered why I was slowing down because they never heard it and the rig was running straight as an arrow… til I passed through 50, which was when it started trying to fishtail… rode it down to 40 and it straightened out again. Had to swap tires but got a HELL of a tip out of the passengers.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      Transit 350s have DRW, which has been shown to help, but it’s still a small bus being driven by someone whose definition of “big car” might be a Town & Country.

      Edit: OK, no, they don’t all have it. But they should! Especially since it’s the Euro-style DRW that puts the duals inboard to keep the width the same as SRW.

  • avatar
    JMII

    Based on the data at
    http://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/driver-death-rates
    Only the Kia Rio at 149 out kills the Nissan 350Z with 143.
    Maybe because the base Z came without traction control and used examples are silly cheap? Maybe its because many modify Zs to have stupid tires and insane power levels?

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Anyone remember the survival rate of the old ’69 Dodge Charger Daytona and Plymouth SuperBird? As I recall, barely 1 in 10 survived their first week on the road.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    This is why exceptionally grippy tires and great suspensions have a downside for the adrenaline laced street driver. If you do wreck on a corner, you’ll be going really fast.

  • avatar
    Scott_314

    In a city with an Italian-heritage population? Eg Vaughan, Ontario north of Toronto?

    Infinity G35 coupe.

    Seriously if you want a laugh call and ask for an insurance quote. They pretty much assume youre going to kill yourself and three others.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    Here’s the list of models with the highest death rates. Numbers represent driver deaths per 1 million over the years studied, from 2009 to 2012:

    1. Kia Rio four-door, 149

    2. Nissan Versa, 130

    3. Hyundai Accent four-door, 120

    4. Chevrolet Aveo, 99

    5. Hyundai Accent two-door, 86

    6. Chevrolet Camaro, 80

    7. Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Crew, 79

    8. Honda Civic two-door, 76

    9. Nissan Versa hatchback, 71

    10. Ford Focus, 70

    Odd to see a full sized pickup on that list of small cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Foley

      Why is the death rate twice as high for the Versa sedan than it is for the Versa Note/Versa hatchback? Same platform, same drivetrain, same safety equipment.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      Lou,

      thank you for posting actual numbers, to cut through a sea of people just posting whatever car/truck they don’t like.

      I’d point out that the top 4 of that list are common rental cars…

  • avatar

    I always knew that Kia is a deathtrap – the closest thing to Chinese car.

  • avatar
    Edsel Maserati

    Early 1960s VW Bugs. Damn, but I hated that car. (No sentimentality here.) Zero front-end protection, especially when bolts holding the “bumper” rusted out and dropped it a few inches.
    Tempted young drivers into going fast into turns, where it slid right out.
    Oh, and the windshields in the early version would shatter quite easily.

    Speaking of cars that tempt drivers and leave them hanging, I wonder how Lamborghinis survive?
    Based on the crash videos alone, it seems every hot-shot driver who gets hard on the throttle spins the thing into opposing traffic. Or is it something about the presence of a video camera?

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    If I define modern era by the era of OBD-II forward (1996 to today):

    1) Ford Explorer – especially SWB
    2) Pontiac Tran Sport Montana, Pontiac Montana, and Chevrolet Venture
    3) Kia Rio/Hyundai Accent
    4) Nissan Quest (which does about as bad in crash tests as the 97 Tran Sport did)
    5) Chevy Aveo

  • avatar
    delow48

    Any year Escalade/Denali/Tahoe with a female driving, texting, and putting on makeup at the same time.

    Or there is the Accord I occasionally see in heavy traffic with the dude reading a book while driving.

  • avatar
    DirtRoads

    It’s more the driver, as jack already pointed out in the article, than the vehicle. I’ve had some seriously dangerous cars in my past, but never crashed them.

    Many years ago I decided while living in Houston that the worst drivers were (insert racist, misogynistic identity here). Then again, I mostly rode a motorcycle in those days and nobody ever sees you on a motorcycle.

  • avatar
    Nick

    They won’t show up much in the data being fairly rare but the full size vans with the extended wheelbase (I’ve driven the cargo version of Ford’s E series and the older Dodge). Heavy braking on pretty well any surface was downright bizarre, with the van doing a bizarre nosedive, fishtail combo that felt unlike anything I’d experienced in a passenger car.

  • avatar
    FalcoDog

    The Nissan Altima in the left lane yesterday with at least a 12 cars piled up behind it, bumper to bumper, waiting for the ten minutes it took to pass a semi. Deadly.

  • avatar
    desertsoldier22

    I would say the most dangerous car I ever drove was a late 70’s 911 Turbo. With the weight distribution of a clock pendulum, you could easily get killed if you got freaked out in corner and dared to lift the throttle. Te sight of trees rushing up to you in the rear view mirror was a real possibility if you did not know what you were doing.


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