The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

Insurance Institute Study Identifies Models with Highest and Lowest Death Rates

April 19, 2007

ARLINGTON, Va. --- A new study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety concludes that some cars, minivans, SUVs and pickup trucks had much higher death rates than others, with some models more than twice as high as the average rate of 79 per million registered vehicle years. At the same time, rates in other vehicles were only a fraction of the average. During 2002-05, more than 125,000 passenger vehicle occupants died in crashes, most of whom were drivers. Among all types and sizes of passenger cars, the smallest four-door models had the highest driver death rate at 148 per million registered vehicle years. Among cars, the next highest was 137 in mini two-door models. The lowest rates were found in the midsize and very large luxury cars. For a list of death rates for specific models, go to and download the pdf file for "Driver Deaths -- By Make & Model: Fatality Risk in One Vehicle Versus Another." "This range from best to worst has been the pattern since we began comparing deaths by make and model in the late 1980s," said Anne McCartt, the Institute's senior vice president for research. "The rates vary not only among groups of vehicles by type, size and weight but also among individual models within the groups of similar vehicles." Overall, the average rate for all vehicles has gone down over time, the study found. In 1989-93 models during 1990-94, the average driver death rate was 110 per million registered vehicle years. In 2005, when the Institute released the rates in 1999-2002 models, the average was down to 87 per million. In the study released this week, the average rate was 79. "The rates have gone down about 30 percent since the mid-1990s," McCartt pointed out. The Institute's study computes death rates for drivers only, not passengers. That's because varying numbers of passengers in crashes of one vehicle versus another would affect the rates. "Though the focus is on drivers, the rates reflect the relative fatality risk for all occupants," McCartt said. Factors that influence a vehicle's death rate include size, along with type and body style. In general, the smallest vehicles in any type or body style have the highest death rates. None of the 15 vehicles with the lowest driver death rates is a small model. However, 11 of the 16 vehicles with the highest death rates are mini or small models.
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