Small car manufacturers are exerting effort to ensure the safety of their vehicles. However, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) still deemed them to be the most dangerous. This label was announced after IIHS calculated the recent mortality rates among drivers.
Mini-cars and small cars make up for the 15 out of 20 vehicle models with the highest death rates. On the other hand, more than half of the vehicles with the lowest mortality rates are mostly luxury SUVs.
Joe Nolan, the senior vice president of vehicle research of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, explained as to why these small cars usually cause death on their drivers.
“Smaller vehicles offer less protection for the driver in crashes, and their lighter mass means that they take the brunt of collisions with larger vehicles,” Nolan said.
It is notable that in the research of IIHS, large SUVs have extremely low death rates. Specifically, they only incur 15 fatalities per million registered vehicle years. Mini-cars are contrary to this. They have 82 fatalities per every million registered vehicles.
The research also noted that Ford Fiesta has the highest driver death rate between the years 2015 and 2018.
This study was conducted to see the number of drivers that had died while driving 2017 model units. This specifically suggests that 2015 models are qualified to be part of the research as long as they were not redesigned between the said year up to 2017. Furthermore, low-selling vehicles or those “boutique” units were not part of the study because they didn’t account for at least 100,000 total registered vehicle years.
It was found out that the vehicles with the highest death rate for drivers between 2015 and 2018 are the following: Ford Mustang GT, Nissan Sentra, Hyundai Accent wagon (81); Kia Rio (87); Nissan Versa (88); Kia Forte and Hyundai Elantra (89); Fiat 500 (95); Nissan Versa Note (96); Chevy Sonic (98); Hyundai Accent (116); and Ford Fiesta (141).
Aside from the given anatomy of these small cars, one of the reasons why they account for significantly high death rates is due to the individuals behind their wheels. Accordingly, these are the vehicles that are driven by young drivers or those that have minimal experience in driving. It is undeniable that small cars are not that expensive. Therefore, anyone can simply afford them.
Because of their inexpensive price tags, these units usually don’t come with various safety features, such as an automatic emergency braking system. This kind of capability has been a staple part of newer and larger vehicle models.
“Looking at 2017, so much of driver assistance technology was just starting to come out,” Joe Young said, one of the spokesperson of the IIHS. “We know from the numbers that luxury models have lower death rates than non-luxury models, and luxury vehicles are where that technology comes into play.”
In the study conducted by the IIHS, they also included the miles driven of these vehicles. By analyzing the said factor, it has been clear that sports cars top the list of the highest driver death rate. Meanwhile, Nissan Leaf only has five deaths per million registered vehicle years. Volkswagen Golf has zero fatalities.
“The Golf is a big question mark,” Young emphasized. “It seems like a statistical anomaly.”
The last time IIHS conducted such a study was in 2017, and it involved 2014 vehicle models. In that research, the Volkswagen Golf has the highest death rate, garnering up to 63 driver mortality.
Young explained that the Leaf is generally safe due to its low-speed attributes. It is a car that is mostly driven in inner streets and not only high-speed highways.
Ford Fiesta, on the flip side, has no excuses as to why it causes many driver deaths. This vehicle doesn’t have any automatic emergency brakes. In the crash test conducted by the IIHS, Ford Fiesta got a marginal rating, which indicates that it has extremely high chances of injuring or killing someone when it is involved in an accident.
Fortunately, new models of cars already integrated automatic emergency braking. Even the entry-level vehicles have this safety feature already. Many automakers decided that this technology should be a part of their 2022 model year vehicles. Other technologies, such as the blind-spot monitors and active lane controls, are among the reasons why there is a decrease in traffic fatalities in 2019, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.