The chances of dying in a crash in a late-model car or light truck fell by more than a third over three years, and nine car models had zero deaths per million registered vehicles, according to a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The study, which examined fatalities involving 2011 model year vehicles, looked at how many fatalities occurred in a particular model over the course of a year of operation, expressed as a rate per million registered vehicle years. It found there was an average of 28 driver deaths per million registered vehicle years through the 2012 calendar year, down from 48 deaths for 2008 models through 2009. Improved vehicle designs and safety technology have a lot to do with the reduced risk, the institute said. But a weak economy that led to reductions in driving may also have played a role.
"This is a huge improvement in just three years, even considering the economy's influence," says the institute's chief research officer. But the gap between safest and riskiest models remains wide. Three 2011 models had rates exceeding 100 deaths per million registered vehicle years. The riskiest models also were mostly lower-priced, small cars, while the safest models were all mid-sized or large vehicles. The nine models with zero deaths were: Audi A4; Honda Odyssey; Kia Sorento; Lexus RX 350; Mercedes-Benz GL-Class; Subaru Legacy; Toyota Highlander hybrid; Toyota Sequoia, and Volvo XC90. The vehicles with the highest death rates were the Kia Rio, 149 deaths per million registered vehicles; Nissan Versa, 130 deaths; and Hyundai Accent, 120 deaths.