IIHS Releases Vehicle Death Rates For 2006-2009

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently released a major study regarding death rates from auto accidents, and while the results are not unexpected, they do provide some context for the (relatively) current state of vehicular safety.

According to the IIHS, the number of driver deaths per million vehicles registered in the U.S. has fallen from 110 for 1989-1993 models, to 87 for 1999-2002 models, to 79 for 2002-2005 models, to 48 in the most current study, which looked at vehicles from the 2005-2008 model years that were sold during calendar years 2006-2009. That’s a pretty dramatic decline, and the IIHS says most of it has to do with two semi-related factors. First, a number of smaller, rollover-prone SUVs from the IIHS’ first death-rate studies dropped out of production, and second, more and more of the newer sport utilities gained electronic stability control, an important technology for reducing these kinds of accidents.

Thus, while the study covering 1999-2002 reported an SUV death rate that was nearly equal to that of cars—82 per million for sport utilities and 88 per million for cars—the most current data show SUVs to be essentially twice as safe as cars, with a death rate of 28 per million for the former and 56 per million for the latter. Of course, a lot of this discrepancy has to do with the laws of physics, which mandate that bigger, heavier vehicles are going to be safer than smaller and lighter ones, as shown clearly by the data breakouts.

Eight of the top-10 vehicles in terms of fewest driver deaths per million vehicles registered were non-cars, with that list (and overall driver deaths) including:

Audi A6 (0)
Mercedes E-Class (0)
Toyota Sienna (0)
Ford Edge (0)
Nissan Armanda (0)
Land Rover Range Rover Sport (0)
Land Rover LR3 (0)
Honda CR-V (7)
Jeep Grand Cherokee (11)
Acura MDX  (11)

Interestingly, the IIHS specifically tags only the all- or four-wheel-drive versions of all of these, except for the Sienna, as the safest, but no explicit mention is made of the actual safety benefits of driving all four wheels at once. It’s particularly odd because comparing the data for the same models with different drive configurations shows a clear advantage for AWD/4WD. For example, the Nissan Frontier crew cab with four-wheel-drive just missed the 21-deaths-per-million cutoff for the top 25 safest vehicles, while the exact same model with two-wheel-drive, with 77 deaths per million, was among the 25 most deadly.

As far as which automaker had the most vehicles among the top 25 (as deep as the overall list went), Honda led the way with a mix of eight models, including three from Acura. Unsurprisingly, expanding the list also shows an additional five cars among the next 15 entries, and two were Acuras: the 3.2 TL and RL. The other cars were the Saab 9-3, Mercedes E-Class with 2WD, and the Honda Accord.

Turning to the deadliest 10 vehicles—none of which were equipped with AWD/4WD—the ranking from the bottom up was:

Nissan 350Z (143)
Nissan Titan crew cab (126)
Chevrolet Aveo (119)
Chevrolet Cobalt (117)
Nissan Titan extended cab (111)
Kia Spectra hatch (102)
Chevrolet Malibu Classic (99)
Hyundai Tiburon (96)
Nissan Versa (96)
Chevrolet Colorado ext. cab (93)

Nissan, which also counted the Titan crew cab with 4WD, Maxima and Frontier crew cab with 2WD among the worst 25, stood out from the crowd here, although GM came close to matching that mark by also adding the Buick Lucerne and Buick LaCrosse to the list. The South Koreans had 20 percent of the most-deadly 25, counting the Spectra and Tiburon along with the Kia Spectra sedan, Kia Rio and Hyundai Elantra—which shows how far Hyundai has had to come to earn IIHS Top Safety Pick status for the Kia Forte (the Spectra’s replacement) and the new Elantra.

For a complete rundown on the IIHS study, visit: http://www.iihs.org/externaldata/srdata/docs/sr4605.pdf.

Author: Chris Haak

Chris is Autosavant's Managing Editor. He has a lifelong love of everything automotive, having grown up as the son of a car dealer. A married father of two sons, Chris is also in the process of indoctrinating them into the world of cars and trucks.

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  1. Why are you showing a photograph of a blue 370Z when the 350Z is the vehicle listed? You might be doing more harm than good to owners of the 370Z…one of which is my wife.

    I performed a complete search of the IIHS pdf and nowhere was the 370z listed or mentioned. The 370Z is built upon an completely different chassis and has a completely different body. Misinformation, although visual in this case, does no one any good.

    People are tweeting that the 370Z is one of the most dangerous vehicles owed to your incorrect photograph. Please reconsider what you are doing.

  2. Soylent, you have GOT to be kidding me. People are tweeting that the 370Z is an unsafe car because of a photo – correctly captioned by the way – in this article, of all places? And it’s hard to argue that it’s built on a completely different chassis. Heavily revised, yes, but still built on Nissan’s FM platform. And I’d love to know how including a 370Z photo in an article about how the 350Z is the most deadly car – as clearly outlined in the article is somehow harming you or your wife.

    But whatever. I changed the photo to be of a death trap 350Z instead.

  3. Chris:
    Autosavant‎ Hint: it’s sure not the 370Z, which happens to be the deadliest.

    IIHS Releases Vehicle Death Rates For 2006-2009 | Autosavant‎ – autosavant.com
    Facebook – 1 day ago

    Thanks for changing the photograph.

  4. So the only “people” who are tweeting about the 370Z was me? Glad we set that straight. Apologies again for the irreparable harm that we caused you and your wife. Though I still can’t quite figure out what that harm was.

  5. I sell cars and this is very usefull information, I used U of M studies in the past. It needs to be used responsibly, but if you’re selling Siennas ie. it’s hard to argue that Toyota doesn’t make a safer vehicle than GM or Chrysler.

    Families care about this stuff, the headlines are full of stories about whole families being wiped out in Dodge Caravans. I can think of three incidents this year, One in Indiana, one in North Carolina, and one here is Ohio.

    The Prius which gets maligned by SUV proponets also had the best rating in the small car field, though it’s close to a midsize and weighs nearly 3000 lbs.

  6. I ‘ve just seen this stats as well as the full report: http://www.iihs.org/externaldata/srdata/docs/sr4605.pdf
    So the only conclusion can be made here: there is no matter what car you drive – Prius or Suburban. Safety mostly depends only on driver’s skills and behaviour.
    Just look at the 2nd and 3nd pages of the report: almost the same cars – Nissan Armada and Nissan titan show completely different results.

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