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.