Safety Improvements Reduce Injuries in Modern Vehicles

We’ve all heard a lot of news in recent months about cars with faulty parts that make them unsafe and massive recalls. You may wonder if there are any safe vehicles on the road. Despite the highly publicized recalls, car crash fatality rates have steadily dropped and many vehicles are safer today, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Fatalities in late-model vehicles fell by more than 33 percent in three years, the institute said. Nine 2011 models registered driver death rates of zero. As recently as eight years ago, no models registered zero on driver death rates.

Better vehicle designs and safety innovations are key factors in the lower risk of vehicle accident deaths. Improved structural designs, added stability features and evolving vehicle types led to lower risks from 1993 through 2006.

Other factors in decreasing death rates are lower speed limits, tougher seat-belt laws and more automated traffic enforcement. But the number of vehicles with driver death rates of zero is so striking it’s hard to overlook the impact of design and safety improvements.

The institute says that highway safety advocates are making an impact on improvements in vehicle safety, and manufacturers are responding.

Sport-utility vehicles, for instance, had some of the highest death rates just 10 years ago, because of a propensity for rolling over. But electronic stability control in the SUV fleets is making them some of the safest vehicles on the road. Now they have the lowest driver death rate of all vehicle types, the institute reports.

Every car must comply with federal safety standards, but not all cars are equally safe.

Vehicles with lowest rates of driver deaths for 2009-12, based on overall driver deaths per million registered vehicle years, are as follows:

  • Audi A4 4WD – 0
  • Honda Odyssey – 0
  • Kia Sorento 2WD – 0
  • Lexus RX 350 4WD – 0
  • Mercedes-Benz GL-Class 4WD – 0
  • Subaru Legacy 4WD – 0
  • Toyota Highlander hybrid 4WD – 0
  • Toyota Sequoia 4WD – 0
  • Volvo XC90 4WD – 0
  • Honda Pilot 4WD – 2
  • Mercedes-Benz M-Class 4WD – 3
  • Ford Crown Victoria – 4
  • GMC Yukon – 4
  • Acura TL 2WD – 5
  • Chevrolet Equinox 2WD – 5
  • Chevrolet Equinox 4WD – 5
  • Ford Expedition 4WD – 5
  • Ford Flex 2WD – 5
  • Mazda CX-9 4WD – 5

The researchers found a wide variance in between safe and risky models. Three vehicle models have fatal accident rates of more than 100 deaths per million registered vehicle years.

Mini cars and small cars are among the most dangerous vehicles. The Kia Rio, a mini car, tops the list of highest death rate among 2011 models with 149 driver deaths per million registered vehicle years.

The minicars and small vehicles simply don’t protect motorists the way larger vehicles do, the institute reports.

Vehicles with highest rates of driver deaths for 2009-12, based on overall driver deaths, are as follows:

  • Kia Rio – 149
  • Nissan Versa sedan – 130
  • Hyundai Accent – 120
  • Chevrolet Aveo – 99
  • Hyundai Accent – 86
  • Chevrolet Camaro – 80
  • Chevrolet Silverado – 79
  • Honda Civic – 76
  • Nissan Versa hatchback – 71
  • Ford Focus – 70
  • Nissan Cube – 66
  • Chevrolet HHR – 61
  • Chevrolet Suburban 1500 2WD – 60
  • Chevrolet Aveo – 58
  • Mercury Grand Marquis – 57
  • Jeep Patriot 2WD – 57
  • Mazda 6 – 54
  • Dodge Nitro 2WD – 51
  • Honda Civic – 49

Carmakers clearly are putting more emphasis than ever on safety improvements. Takaka Corp., the Japanese auto part maker, recently announced an expanded recall of 34 million vehicles with potentially defective airbags, making it the largest automotive recall in U.S. history.

When buying a car, consider a vehicle’s crashworthiness. The Insurance Information Institute has a crash test tool where you can check the crash test rating of the make and model of vehicle that you are considering.

Even as vehicle safety improves, as long as motorists continue to speed, drive while distracted, drowsy or drunk, accidents involving negligence will continue to take place. If you have been the victim of a car accident caused by another driver, call an experienced attorney to review your accident and explain your legal options.