IIHS Proves Small Cars Are the “Most Dangerous” Vehicles in New Study

However, two small vehicles defied the trend

2017 blue Ford Fiesta
Still driving around in a 2017 Ford Fiesta? Better look at this.
Ford Motor Company
By Alex Lauer / June 4, 2020 8:30 am

I have no qualms lambasting the size of today’s SUVs and crossovers. Most people don’t need them and, anecdotally, I figured the constant expansion would make our roads less safe. An acquaintance told me last summer that, in the wake of a crash, he purchased his wife a larger SUV for “safety reasons.” But if we all go down that road, won’t we just be increasing the potential harm for everyone else? Potentially.

Every three years, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety looks at driver death rates in the U.S., then releases findings on the safest and most dangerous models. In the most recent study, for model year 2017, IIHS found that “the smallest late-model cars remain the most dangerous.”

“Small cars and minicars accounted for 15 of the 20 models with the highest death rates for model year 2017, while nearly half of the 20 models with the lowest death rates were luxury SUVs,” wrote IIHS. It continued: “Very large SUVs have the lowest overall death rate of any vehicle category with 15 fatalities per million registered vehicle years. Minicars have the highest at 82.”

This all may seem very obvious — big cars are safe, small cars are not — but as The Drive reported, it’s the trends that are harrowing: 

From the 1970s on to the late 2000s, the IIHS observed a constant decline in road deaths of all kinds, though, across the Twenteens, the trend reversed. For 2011 model year vehicles, there was an average of 28 deaths per million RVY, and for 2014 models, the number climbed to 30. Now, for 2017 models, the number stands at 36, and given the concurrent rise in pedestrian deaths—attributed to the popularization of SUVs and CUVs—it’s hard not to see a correlation between the SUV boom and road fatalities.

As for specific models, the five vehicles with the highest rate of driver deaths, in descending order, are the Ford Fiesta, Hyundai Accent, Chevrolet Sonic, Nissan Versa Note and Fiat 500. On the other side, some of the vehicles with the lowest rate of driver deaths include the GMC Yukon XL 1500 4WD, Infiniti QX60 2WD, Porsche Cayenne 4WD, Range Rover Evoque 4WD and Lexus NX 200t 4WD.

Never fear, small car faithful, there were some outliers. According to IIHS, both the Volkswagen Golf and the electric Nissan Leaf “[defied] the average for their size and class.”

Read the full findings here.

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