The smallest cars are the most dangerous for occupants, according to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS). A recently released study showed dramatic differences between the smallest and largest vehicles. If you’re concerned about vehicle safety, bigger is better.
The IIHS looked at model year 2017 vehicles. The fatality statistics come from the federal Fatality Analysis Reporting System. The estimated rates are based on fatalities that occurred from 2015 to 2018.
Small cars and minicars are 15 of the 20 models with the highest death rates. Nearly half of the twenty models with the lowest death rates are luxury SUVs. Smaller vehicles offer less protection in an accident. Their lighter mass also means they will suffer the brunt of a collision with a larger vehicle or object.
Very large SUVs have the lowest overall death rate with 15 fatalities per million registered vehicle years (a registered vehicle year is one vehicle registered for one year). Minicars have the highest at 82. Death rates for vehicles range from zero for seven models to 141 for the worst performer, the 2017 Ford Fiesta, a four-door minicar.
The average driver death rate for all 2017 models increased 20% compared to 2014 models. Overall, more Americans are dying in vehicle crashes. From 2015 to 2018, there were 147,324 fatalities. From 2012 to 2015, there were 134,905.
Nine of the 20 models with the lowest death rates are luxury SUVs, two are midsize luxury cars, and four are minivans or very large SUVs. The death rates for luxury vehicles are much lower than nonluxury vehicles of the same size. More expensive vehicles often have advanced safety features not available on less expensive ones, such as blind-spot warning and lane departure prevention.
If you’re looking for a small but safer car, the Volkswagen Golf and the Nissan Leaf have death rates of zero and five per million registered vehicle years. The rate for small cars 61 deaths per million vehicle years. The Golf went from one of the least safe cars in 2014 to one of the safest, thanks to a redesign for the 2015 model year. The Golf has a far lower fatality rate than the Chevrolet Suburban 4WD, a very large SUV.
The fatality rate differences due to vehicle size depend on the type of vehicle. For four-door cars, large models had less than half the number of fatalities per million registration years as the smallest cars. Small four-wheel-drive SUVs have more than three times the fatality rate as large ones. But the rate of deaths in small pickups is only about 10% greater than very large ones.
If you own a small vehicle and are concerned about safety, this is generally bad news. But if safety is important to you and you can afford to replace your vehicle, because of the slow economy, it’s an excellent time to buy a used or new car.
If you or a family member was injured in a vehicle accident, call The Fleck Firm for a free consultation at (270) 446-7000. We can talk about the accident, the law, and your best options to obtain compensation for your injuries. Insurance companies have lawyers. You should have one too.