Study ranks cars with highest and lowest death rates

Study ranks cars with highest and lowest death rates »Play Video
How likely are you to die behind the wheel of your car, mini-van or SUV?

A study released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety compares the fatality risks from one vehicle to another with numbers from real-life highway accidents.

We see their crash tests on TV all the time. But these ratings are based on real life data, from fatal crashes that took place between 2002 and 2005.

The death toll is still tragically high. Between 2002 and 2005, more than 125,000 people lost their lives in a car crash. Most of the victims were drivers.

There is some good news here - the number of drivers being killed on the nation's roads is down significantly, about 30 percent lower than it was in the mid-1990s.

According to this insurance industry study, of real world crashes, your chances of dying behind the wheel is based, in large part, on both the type of vehicle and the specific model you are in.

And Anne McCartt, the institute's senior vice president for research, said size matters.

"When it comes to safety on the road, bigger and heavier are usually better," she said. "As a group, small cars have the highest death rate. Mid-sized and luxury cars have the lowest rate so the laws of physics still apply. Bigger is usually safer."

General Motors Corp. vehicles had the highest and lowest driver death rates from 2002 through 2005.

During that period, two-door, two-wheel drive Chevrolet Blazers built from 2001 to 2004 had the highest rate with 232 driver deaths per million registered vehicles.

By contrast, the Chevrolet Astro minivan had the lowest rate with only seven deaths per million registered vehicles.

The two-door Acura RSX had the second-highest rate with 202 driver deathsfollowed closely behind by the Nissan 350Z, which registered 193 deaths.

Automakers said the study was limited in its scope because it did not include factors which could play a major role in the fatalities.

"The study doesn't really take into account driver behavior or how the vehicles are used so it's difficult to really draw much significance," said GM spokesman Alan Adler.

The Astro and Blazer went out of production in 2005. GM currently sells the Chevy TrailBlazer midsize SUV.

Nissan said all of its vehicles "are engineered to meet or exceed government safety regulations as well as our own rigorous internal safety requirements, and the 350Z is no exception."

The automaker said it urges "everyone driving a Nissan or Infiniti vehicle to do so safely."

Chris Naughton, a Honda Motor Co. spokesman, said the company, which makes the Acura RSX, has "long striven to build very safe vehicles with a long list of safety features." He noted the sports coupe typically had younger buyers, which could have contributed to its ranking.

The institute found that the average death rate for all vehicles has declined from 110 from 1990 to 1994 to the current rate of 79 for the 2002-2005 period.

"This is a big improvement over time. The rates have gone down about 30 percent since the mid-1990s," said McCartt.

The study also reaffirmed past research which found that heavier vehicles in categories such as cars, SUVs and pickups generally had lower death rates.

The study of 202 passenger vehicle models included rates of driver deaths in all crashes plus rates in multiple-vehicle, single-vehicle, and single-vehicle rollover crashes.

The rate represented the reported number of driver deaths divided by the model's number of registered years, according to data from the federal government's Fatality Analysis Reporting System and registration counts from The Polk Company, a Michigan-based provider of automotive information.

More Information:

IIHS's Full Report