IIHS Says SUVs Safer than Cars; Nissan 350Z, Titan Drivers Have Highest Fatality Rate

A report issued today by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says crash data shows that SUVs are now safer than traditional passenger cars. The report also listed the vehicles with the highest driver fatality rates: The Nissan 350Z and Titan, and the Chevrolet Aveo and Cobalt.

The IIHS report examined data from accidents between 2006 and 2009 for vehicles built in model-years 2005 to 2008, and tallied driver fatalities. While minivans still record the lowest driver fatality rate of all vehicle types, the finding that SUVs are safer than passenger cars and trucks is a dramatic turnaround for the IIHS.

The insurance group used to warn that SUVs posed a risk to drivers because the top-heavy vehicles were prone to rollover accidents. Now, however, the IIHS says the implementation of electronic stability control has made large vehicles safer. Starting for model-year 2012, all passenger vehicles sold in the U.S. are required to have stability control. From the 1999 to 2002 model years, SUVs recorded an average of 82 driver deaths per million registered vehicle years. For model-years 2005 to 2008, that rate was just 28 per million.

The decline in death risk for SUVs follows the trend in adoption of stability control. For model-year 2002, the IIHS says only 10 percent of SUVs had stability control as standard, versus 96 percent of those sold in 2008. The institute also says that SUVs provide more occupant protection in an accident because they are heavier, larger, and generally higher from the ground than other vehicles.

"The rollover risk in SUVs used to outweigh their size/weight advantage, but that's no longer the case, thanks to [stability control]," said Anne McCartt, IIHS senior vice president for research.

The IIHS report also breaks down death rates by specific vehicles from model-years 2005 to 2008. According to the report, the ten safest vehicles -- those with the lowest driver fatality rates -- were (in ascending death rate) the Audi A6, Mercedes-Benz E-Class 4Matic, Toyota Sienna, Ford Edge, Nissan Armada, Land Rover Range Rover Sport, Land Rover LR3, Honda CR-V, and Jeep Grand Cherokee; eight of those are SUVs.

On the other end of the scale, the most deadly vehicles, with the highest fatality rates, were (in descending death rate) the Nissan 350Z, Nissan Titan crew cab, Chevrolet Aveo, Chevrolet Cobalt, Nissan Titan extended cab, Kia Spectra, Chevrolet Malibu Classic, Hyundai Tiburon, Nissan Versa, and Chevrolet Colorado extended cab.

Taken as overall classes, the IIHS says minivans were safest (25 fatalities per million registered vehicle years), followed by SUVs (28 per million), then pickup trucks (52 per million), with the broad "cars" class rated most deadly (56 deaths per million.)

What do you think of the latest vehicle safety findings? Would you feel more secure in a large SUV with electronic stability control, or in a smaller car with commensurate safety equipment? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

Source: IIHS

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