The National Safety Commission Alerts

Safety is No Accident. Visit the National Safety Commission - America's Safety Headquarters for driver safety information, auto recalls and teen safe driver tips.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

New Report Shows Type of Vehicle Impacts Driver Fatality Risks

IIHS Report Reveals the Best and Worst Performing Vehicles in Real-World Crashes

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, there is a significant difference in the driver fatality rate among vehicles. In vehicle collisions for the 2001-2004 model years or calendar years 2002-2005, a recent IIHS report on driver deaths uncovered that the average death rate was 79 per million registered vehicle years. Some makes had twice that fatality rate, while others had considerably lower rates. Over time, the death rate has continued to improve and is roughly 30% less than it was in 1996.

When evaluating this data, consider that there are driver factors (such as demographics and region) that might greatly impact the fatality rates per model. Vehicles that attract a more careful driver are likely to have a lower fatality rate than those that are of interest to a more risk-prone driver.

2004 Chevrolet Blazer
Chevrolet's vehicles were at the top of both the best and worst lists. The Chevrolet Astro minivan recorded the lowest death rate, at seven per million registered vehicle years. The greatest reported rate of recurrence is for the two-door, two-wheel-drive Chevrolet Blazer, at 232 per million.


The IIHS study proves that vehicle weight and size play a role in the death rate. By and large, the smallest, lightest vehicles have the highest fatality rates in collisions. Not one of the 15 vehicles on the lowest-fatality list is small, while 11 of 16 on the highest list are small.

Having the lowest death rates among vehicle types are mid-sized and very large luxury vehicles. The data proves that heavy cars are generally safer. Yet bigger isn't always safer.
  • In mid-sized sports cars, the driver death rate is higher than small ones. Contrary to what one might believe, sports cars have a lower risk of fatality than two-door coupes, which recorded rates that range from 103 to 137 per million registered vehicle years.

  • The Ford Excursion, the only "very large" SUV listed, recorded a rate of 115 per million registered vehicle years, more than any "large" SUV.

  • Across all categories, the rates reflect the vehicle's design, as well as how it is used.
2004 Ford F-150
Just as there exists a correlation between vehicle size and weight and fatality rates, the IIHS notes that there is a relationship between accidents and testing. For example, the 2001 Ford F-150 was one of the poorest performers in the IIHS frontal crash tests. It was redesigned in 2004; the crash test results improved dramatically and the death rate dropped by half.


The IIHS report reveals the value of vehicles that have electronic stability control (ESC). SUVs in particular are becoming safer with the availability of ESC, and six models equipped with it made it on the lowest death rates list. Out of 15 vehicles on that list, all but three have available or standard ESC. In comparison, of the 16 vehicles with the highest death rate, not one has standard ESC and it is optional on only the Nissan 350Z. A separate study showed that ESC could save 10,000 lives per year and can significantly reduce the risk of fatal crashes, including rollovers.

Consumer Reports has long advised adding ESC to vehicles. More and more manufacturers are equipping their vehicles with this important safety technology either as an option or standard feature with each new model year. What’s more, ESC will be standard on all new vehicles under 10,000 pounds by 2012.

Vehicle crashworthiness can vary considerably, as can driver reaction during an accident-avoidance maneuver and severe braking. This report shows the vehicles that have fared best at protecting the driver in the real world.

When researching your next vehicle, pay attention to safety, and study the Consumer Reports crash-protection and accident-avoidance ratings.

For more information about driver safety, The National Safety Commission and Lowest Price Traffic School offer safe teen driving resources for new drivers and their parents.

© 2011 All rights reserved.
The National Safety Commission, Inc.
PO Box 3359
Ponte Vedra Beach, FL 32004-3359

AddThis Feed Button