Study: Small cars more prone to driver deaths

Keith Laing
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — The risk of dying in a crash involving a small car has been greater in recent years than the likelihood of a fatal crash involving a large car or an SUV, according to a study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The study found that models with the highest rates of driver deaths per million registered years, or vehicles registered for one year, for models that were made between 2012 and 2015 is the Hyundai Accent four-door sedan, which had 104 deaths per million registered vehicle years.

The Accent was followed by the Kia Rio sedan at 102 deaths per million registered vehicle years; the Scion tC 2-door car, which had 101 deaths; the Chevrolet Spark 4-door car; and the Nissan Versa.

The study found the top five models with the lowest driver death rates were the Volkswagen Tiguan 2WD SUV, Toyota Tacoma Double Cab long bed 4WD pickup, Mazda CX-9 2WD SUV, Audi A6 4WD and Audi Q7 4WD. All had zero driver deaths in the period measured.

The finding was part of a study that showed the overall rate of driver deaths for 2014 models was 30 per million registered vehicle years, which the group said was up from 28 for 2011 models.

IIHS attributed the increase to a stronger economy that “has led drivers to take to the road more often and in more dangerous ways.”

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

IIHS said “the last time (it) calculated driver death rates, the overall rate had fallen by more than a third over three years.

“Researchers found that the drop was driven largely by improved vehicle designs and safety technology,” the group said. “Such improvements have continued, but the new results show that, by themselves, they won’t be enough to eliminate traffic deaths.”

The IIHS study found that July and August are typically the deadliest months on U.S. roadways, with an average daily toll of 116, which the group attributed to driving patterns that increase in warmer summer months.

“Roadway deaths have declined since our original study, but the pattern of deaths is unchanged,” said Charles Farmer, IIHS vice president for research and statistical services, in a statement. “The riskiest times remain risky.”

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Twitter: @Keith_Laing