By on May 26, 2017

2014 Hyundai Accent, Image: Hyundai

After a notable decline in driver fatalities during the Great Recession, deaths are back on the rise. However, the increase is rather minuscule compared to every other decade since automobiles became North America’s preferred mode of transportation and the number is projected to go back down in the years to come.

The averaged rate of driver deaths for 2014 models was 30 fatalities per million registered vehicle years, up from the 2011 low of 28. Fatal crashes rose a further 7 percent in 2015. This is can primarily be attributed to people having more reasons to drive when the economy is better, and those added miles translate into additional opportunities for crashes.

More interestingly, however, is which vehicles drivers are losing their lives in most often. As expected, smaller vehicles often are the most dangerous to occupy in the event of an accident but the stats between individual models vary widely.

Let’s begin with which segments performed better. As stated earlier, the smaller a car is, the less likely it will be able to adequately protect you in a crash. On the other end of the spectrum are luxury SUVs. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which analyzed deaths from 2012 to 2015, large all-wheel-drive luxury SUVs possessed the lowest death rate, with just six fatalities per million registered vehicle years — though exceptionally large luxury SUVs were actually involved in more driver fatalities. Luxury sedans echoed this phenomenon by being much safer overall, with slightly more averaged deaths in the largest examples.

Minivans also performed exceedingly well, besting everything but luxury models.

Mainstream SUVs and pickups were also relatively safe, outperforming non-luxury sedans and coupes by a decent margin. In fact, large two-doors tended to be among the most dangerous segments in the study, tallying 80 deaths per million registered years — outdone only by the mini segment’s 87. Sports cars were also involved in more than their fair share of driver fatalities, averaging ratios of 54 for midsize examples and 49 for large.

While the IIHS study doesn’t specifically say so, some of those fatal accidents can likely be attributed to the type of driving they inspire. But the majority of models designated for death aren’t really poised for fast and furious road behavior.

The Hyundai Accent sedan was the car associated with the most driver fatalities. Possessing a ratio of 108 deaths per million registered vehicle years, the Accent was followed by the Kia Rio sedan and Scion tC.

Dipping below the triple-digit mark were the Chevrolet Spark, Nissan Versa, Ford Fiesta four-door, and Kia Soul. Other vehicles to make the risky list were the Nissan Maxima, Nissan Sentra, Volkswagen Golf, Dodge Challenger, Hyundai Genesis coupe, Ford Fusion, and Mustang convertible. Surprisingly, none of the Mustang-related deaths could be attribute a rollover accident. The same cannot be said for Nissan’s 4WD Titan Crew Cab short bed — which had more rollover deaths than any other vehicle on the list.

While the “bad” ranged anywhere between 59 and 108 fatalities per million registered years, there were some vehicles that didn’t have any. The Audi Q7 Quattro, BMW 535i/si/ix, Jeep Cherokee 4WD, Lexus CT 200h, Lexus RX 350, Mazda CX-9, Toyota Tacoma Double Cab 4×4, Volkswagen Tiguan, and all-wheel-drive Mercedes-Benz M-Class all had a ratio of zero.

Unsurprisingly, the remaining single digit death ratio cars were predominately sport utility models, too. The Ford Explorer, Chevy Suburban, Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLK, Toyota Venza, and Nissan Pathfinder, all had a ratio of 7 or under. So did the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Chevrolet Volt, the only other non-trucks near the top of the list.

Still, even the worst vehicles saw marked improvements overall. Both the Kia Rio and Hyundai Accent bettered their 2011 scores. Both of those models have since been redesigned, but the majority of models have upped their crash performance in the last few years. With future safety enhancements already being implemented in new cars, the national average is expected to come back down after 2016. The rest will be up to how operators handle themselves on the roads.

“Vehicles continue to improve, performing better and better in crash tests,” said David Zuby, IIHS executive vice president and chief research officer. “The latest driver death rates show there is a limit to how much these changes can accomplish without other kinds of efforts.”

[Image: Hyundai Motor Company]

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65 Comments on “These Vehicles Offer the Highest Rates of Driver Death...”


  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “These Vehicles Offer the Highest Rates of Driver Death”

    HOMER: Hmmm, increase my killing power eh?

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    Within this data set, it would be interesting to also know:

    -among the fatal crashes, what is the seat belt usage %
    -nature of the crash (speed, type of crash, time of day, location)
    -age of car

    • 0 avatar
      nels0300

      Also age of driver.

      Seems these death cars are also cheap cars often driven by young inexperienced drivers.

      • 0 avatar
        LeMansteve

        Some interesting takeaways from the data:

        – In general, cars, minivans and SUVs were more likely to be multiple-vehicle. Fatal accidents involving the Accent and Rio were much more likely to be multi-vehicle crashes. The Golf, Lancer and Focus follow.

        – Fatal accidents of pickups were closer to 50/50 single/multi-vehicle.

        – The ratio of fatal single-vehicle rollovers to single-vehicle crashes.
        100% of the Mercedes E-class and Pathfinder 4×4 fatal crashes were single vehicle rollover events. Meanwhile, the Suburban 2WD and Mercedes GLK had 0 fatal rollover accidents.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Driver!

      Also 2/3rd are Japanese nameplates?

    • 0 avatar
      Guitar man

      >>”Minivans also performed exceedingly well, besting everything but luxury models.”<<

      That's because 99% are owned by government agencies, child care centres or clap-happy Mormons.

    • 0 avatar
      supadoopa2

      “age of car”

      The study is using 2011-2014 model years.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    “exceptionally large luxury SUVs”

    What are these, I would like to buy one. The Suburban’s class has gotten too small.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      The Suburban’s class has gotten too small.

      https://cdn.meme.am/cache/instances/folder692/49941692.jpg

      sigh…

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      There’s a big difference in room between a 1990 sub and a 2017. Exterior size may have stayed the same but it’s not like it was that big to begin with.

      The only thing I can think of that might fill the exceptionally large “class” is the old excursion. Even then I hope automakers can do bigger than that if such a class were to exist.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    Some key points that are needed…

    Age of driver, was distracted driving present, alcohol involvement/impairment in what % of total.

    The minivan figures are not surprising. Most are driven by women with children either in the car or soon to be in the car so it is a fairly good assumption that out of 1,000 people driving at any given moment she is the least likely to be inebriated or driving like an asshat. Hence the low deaths per car.

    • 0 avatar
      dwford

      I’d be interested to learn the causes of the accidents. The highest rate of deaths is in the small cars – less safe cars more likely to be driven by new drivers or old people

      • 0 avatar
        LeMansteve

        For starters, look at the ratio of single-vehicle crashes to multi-vehicle crashes. Think urban vs rural environments.

        There could be a hundred reasons to explain why one of these stats is different from another.

      • 0 avatar
        wumpus

        I wouldn’t expect old people to be in small cars (if only to be stopped by arthritis). My parents drive a mini-van (my father tends to drive through red lights), I’m surprised they aren’t more popular among the geezer-squad.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    Who drives minivans? Soccer moms.
    Who drives Mustangs? Boy racers.
    .
    .

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      “Who drives Mustangs? Boy racers.”

      That is if you consider middle aged or older men as “boy racers”.

      • 0 avatar
        pmirp1

        Lou_BC, you must be watching too much Mecum on Velocity.

        Old Mustangs are driven by older folks. New generation Mustangs are what Honda Civic Si and WRX and 3 series drivers drive nowadays. Here in the south (Atlanta) you hardly ever see a new Mustang or Camaro driven by older dudes. Corvettes are different story

    • 0 avatar
      scott25

      The boy racer contingent is represented by the tC and Genesis coupe.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Humans always believe that accidents are avoidable, and happen to someone else.

    If safety performance was the sole purchase criterion, sales would reflect it. In the US, the Hyundai Accent is outselling the entire Volvo product line.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Given you can buy at least a couple, if not three Accents for the price of the average Volvo, is this particularly surprising?

      Though IMHO, and I say this as the past owner of a dozen or so Volvos, most of their safety reputation is demographics, not engineering. If I really wanted to attempt to move a bridge abutment with a car, I would much prefer to be in a Mercedes.

    • 0 avatar
      arach

      Does someone need a lesson in causality vs correlation?

      Oddly, people who drive Accents are also more likely to consume McDonalds for dinner than someone with a Volvo.

      ITS A CONSPIRACY of GLOBAL CORPORATIONS!!!

      I feel safe saying that less than 5% of Accent buyers could even afford a Volvo if they wanted one.

      unless its a 20-30 year old volvo, but frankly, I’d trust a 2017 accent over a 1987 Volvo. I mean I know an 87 volvo was VERY safe for its time, but across the board cars have improved drastically.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    The problem is you can’t separate the demographics from the vehicles. Small cheap cars are most commonly driven by younger, less experienced, less educated, and lower income owners. If we could create a control group of Accents driven by S-class and G-wagon owners [community service, perhaps] the fatality index would likely be drastically different from that seen in the real world. Higher than their “native” vehicles but much lower than “natural” Accent drivers.

    That having been said, I drove a tC for four years and 80,000 miles without being involved in any kind of incident before passing it to my daughter, who walked away from an accident involving a spin on snow into a tree. Car was totaled but she wasn’t scratched. However, my insurance took a big drop twice, the first being when I replaced the tC with my Challenger, and the second when the tC was replaced by her Cherokee.

    • 0 avatar
      stingray65

      I agree. The higher death rate for luxury sedans and SUVs likely also reflects an older driver demographic (who can afford large luxury vehicles) who may be somewhat frail physically and hence more likely to die in a crash.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        Luxury sedans and SUVs are more highly rated – they have LOWER death rates. If any elderly are driving them, they’re not driving them far from home, or on high-speed roadways, or taking chances in traffic. Only the largest SUVs have somewhat higher death rates, and that may be a function of size – you almost need the experience of driving a bus or semi to operate them, and any fatalities may be from squashing an Accent or Rio.

    • 0 avatar
      arach

      This is important to note.

      From an actuarial standpoint, the Chevrolet Camaro SS is much safer than the Chevrolet Camaro LS. Therefore insurance rates are lower.

      there’s an important reason for this:

      Give a 16 year old an SS and they’ll probably kill themselves too, but 16 year olds are rarely handed an SS ;)

  • avatar
    zip89123

    Interesting to see the Ford Fusion on the list. Usually I’m dodging people trying to kill me.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      It is interesting to see it on TTAC’s list, because I don’t see it on the IIHS list. I think TTAC goofed.

      • 0 avatar
        supadoopa2

        The Fusion actually has one of the lowest death rates on the IIHS list of mid-size four doors. I think they meant Focus, as it rounds out the top-10 highest death rate list and has the second highest death rate amongst small four doors.

    • 0 avatar
      mechaman

      Tell me about it. Seven, yes, seven rear endings in the last 8 years, and all but two drove off without so much as a look back – except for the mook who whacked my Taurus into a stopped truck, actually causing more damage to the front than the rear. He got out, looked, ran back to his car, sped off. At least the guy who totaled my Fusion, that eventually replaced the Taurus, did everything right. Well, except the accident.

  • avatar
    thornmark

    The Nissan Sentra is alleged to offer the highest rate of driver death due to boredom.
    Or maybe it’s the smell.

  • avatar
    vvk

    Given the vehicle size and weight arms race going on for the last 30 years, it is clear that drivers of high and mighty SUVs are murdering people in small cars. Soon we will all be driving bus sized pillow mobiles.

  • avatar
    whisperquiet

    Nissan Sentra = death from boredom.

    BTW, the Missouri Highway Patrol has an up to date traffic crash summary that mostly tells the tale of roll-over crash without wearing a seatbelt = ejection/fatality.

    https://www.mshp.dps.missouri.gov/HP68/search.jsp

  • avatar
    vvk

    > So did the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Chevrolet Volt, the only non-trucks near the top of the list.

    BMW 5er is not a truck. It is at the top.

  • avatar
    Chan

    News flash: Crime and substance abuse rates, pedestrian deaths, etc. are higher in poorer areas

    News flash: Population density is higher in poorer areas

    Both of those are huge contributing factors, in addition to inexperience in younger drivers.

  • avatar

    Actually, Massachusetts has the third densest population of any state, and we have the lowest death rate. I’ve seen it argued that the two are related.

    I will say that I think personal troubles correlate with crashes. Two of my friends have had crashes that would have probably killed them in an ’80s car or earlier–at times of job loss. And poorer people definitely have a lot more troubles than affluent people.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Doesn’t the Bay State have one of the highest car insurance costs in the nation? What the state lacks in the high speed fatality department, it makes it up in fender-benders. Plus, in the densest part of the state, metro Boston, there’s no parking, and it’s such a tiny city that mass transit actually works there.

      • 0 avatar
        wumpus

        I think Maryland works that way as well. Supposedly the death rate is pretty low, but you would never imagine that driving through the state. I suspect we do bang up a lot of sheet metal (but PA insurance is said to be worse. Probably kamikazi deer trying to even the score against humans.

  • avatar
    Fred

    If a SUV crosses over into my lane and hits me and my little Lotus I’m sure to die. Does that mean my car is unsafe? Or, is it that the SUV gives their idiot driver a false sense of security and no sense of what they are doing.

  • avatar
    tmport

    This information is a little misleading. The Kia Soul is listed among the highest rates of driver deaths, but 2015 and later model year Souls have significantly improved crash test ratings. This test only includes cars from models years 2012-15, so it’s irrelevant if you’re factoring it into your new-car purchasing decision.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      I don’t think it’s misleading. They were very clear about the date range. If they’d included new vehicles, that would be misleading, as there’s not enough data.

      • 0 avatar
        tmport

        Point taken. Though, looking at the data, they only include the 2014 Soul. That’s a little anomalous because it’s after the new generation debuted but before they significantly improved the structure to earn a “good” in the small overlap front crash. Rumor was that the 2014 did poorly, so they didn’t even want it scored. As a result, it’s unclear whether the data for the Soul is relevant to anyone looking to buy, say, a 2017. I guess we’ll learn more when the next study comes out in 2020! (Given the importance of this data, I wonder why they only publish it every three years?)

  • avatar
    RRocket

    Curious where Tesla figures would be. There have been a few deaths in their cars, but only a small number of them on the road.

    Would that put them at a high number per million vehicles registered?

  • avatar
    slavuta

    “Ford Fusion, and Mustang”

    Ford brings a lot of questions. Mustang is a big car. CarAndDriver reported suspension damage from pothole. I mean, is it made of paper?

  • avatar
    Maymar

    One minor observation – out of all 4-door mini cars, apparently mine (a Mazda2) is safest, by a wide margin over everything else in the class, despite being smaller and lighter than everything but the Spark (including the Ford Fiesta it’s related to). Hell, despite weighing just 2300lbs, it’s not that far off average. Not to deny size and weight play a factor in safety, but there’s clearly factors here that IIHS aren’t accounting for (although it looks like previous versions of the study included demographic data).

    • 0 avatar
      Meat

      Is there data for the 2? I may have missed it. I’ve been considering one as a daily for a few years. The actual statistics won’t both me (my current Aveo is nearly as bad as the Rio in that aspect).

      • 0 avatar
        Maymar

        It’s hidden in the full model data for 2014 (they peg it at 40 deaths per million registered vehicle years). It’s very much an old-school small car (small, simple, kind of loud), but it’s fairly fun and nimble, I’ve been averaging 30mpg even thrashing it.

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

  • avatar
    pmirp1

    Please tell Baruth brothers here is another reason why SUVs sell, they are safer than their beloved Accord coupes and Foci ST/RS.

  • avatar
    thx_zetec

    Consider the assumptions of this report. If you have an accident between a F250 and a Chevy Spark the study would conclude the F250 is “safe” and the “spark” is dangerous. The deaths are only reported if they happen behind your bumper. This is like blaming pedestrian deaths on risky behavior (walking).

    There are different ways to keep yourself safe. If you maintain your car and drive carefully you make driving safer for everyone, but if you strap on an extra ton of steel (with its accompanying vert rigid crush zone) then this is more of a zero-sum game.

  • avatar
    nlinesk8s

    the truck rollover deaths aren’t much of a surprise. About every week you hear of someone on a suburban or country road going off in a ditch and rolling. Seatbelts are never worn, and alcohol is almost always a factor.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      “alcohol is almost always a factor.”

      Are you sure about that?

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        How about alcohol or other drug/chemical influence? That’s involved in nearly 1/3 of all fatalities, according to yet another study. Lack of seatbelt use is another 30%-32% contributing factor. the third is speeding/reckless driving. Those top three are involved in nearly 90% of all fatal accidents, and are within a couple percentage points of being equal with each other. The remaining 10% is everything else, from birds and bees in the car to moose through the windshield (more likely in Canada).

  • avatar
    Asdf

    HyunDIE Accident…


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