Sports Cars, Small Cars Deadliest in Crashes

Small cars like the Chevrolet Aveo and sports cars such as the Nissan 350Z have the highest rates of death in accidents, according to a recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety of registered vehicles from the 2005-08 model years. On the other side of the spectrum, large SUVs are some of the least deadly vehicles on the road; the Nissan Armada and Ford Edge are two vehicles with the lowest death rates.That's mainly due to SUVs being early adopters of electronic stability control.

IIHS changed some criteria from its previous studies, but it found that the overall death rate per million vehicles was 48 deaths in the most recent study. The previous report’s overall death rate was 79 for vehicles from the 2001-04 model years, and for 1999-2002 model-year vehicles, the death rate was 87.

What are the most and least deadly vehicles? Check out the lists below.

Least Deadly (Driver deaths per million vehicles)

  • Audi A6 four-door 4WD (0)
  • Mercedes E-Class four-door 4WD (0)
  • Toyota Sienna (0)
  • Ford Edge 4WD (0)
  • Nissan Armada 4WD (0)
  • Land Rover Range Rover Sport (0)
  • Land Rover LR3 (0)
  • Honda CR-V 4WD (7)
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee 4WD (11)
  • Acura MDX (11)
  • Mercedes E-Class four-door (12)
  • Lexus RX 400h (12)
  • Lexus GX 470  (13)
  • Mercedes M-Class (14)
  • Saab 9-3 four-door (16)
  • Kia Sedona (16)
  • Honda Odyssey (17)
  • Jeep Wrangler 4WD (17)
  • Honda Accord (19)
  • Jeep Wrangler two-door (20)
  • Honda Pilot 4WD (20)
  • Honda Pilot 2WD (20)
  • Dodge Dakota crew cab 4WD (20)
  • Acura 3.2 TL (21)
  • Acura RL (21)
  • Nissan Armada 2WD (21)

Most Deadly (Driver deaths per million vehicles)

  • Nissan 350Z (143)
  • Nissan Titan crew cab 2WD (126)
  • Chevrolet Aveo (119)
  • Chevrolet Cobalt (117)
  • Nissan Titan extended cab 2WD (111)
  • Kia Spectra5 (102)
  • Chevrolet Malibu Classic (99)
  • Hyundai Tiburon (96)
  • Nissan Versa (96)
  • Chevrolet Colorado extended cab 2WD (93)
  • Nissan Titan crew cab 4WD (92)
  • Kia Rio (89)
  • Kia Spectra (87)
  • Mazda Miata MX-5 (83)
  • Subaru Legacy (83)
  • Mitsubishi Eclipse (82)
  • Mitsubishi Galant (82)
  • Nissan Maxima (82)
  • Ford Ranger 2WD (81)
  • Hyundai Elantra (80)
  • Ford Ranger extended cab 2WD (79) 
  • Toyota Yaris two-door (79)
  • Nissan Frontier crew cab 2WD (77)
  • Buick Lucerne (77)
  • Buick LaCrosse (76)
  • Chrysler Sebring (76)
By David Thomas | June 9, 2011 | Comments (51)
Tags: Safety



Looks like one of my cars is on the "Most Deadly" list.

Derrick G

It's worth pointing out again that these are for '05-'08 model years. Many of these cars have been redesigned with a better eye towards safety in the interim. Some picked up ESC towards the end of the period.

BTW, before anyone asks, it's the Spectra5 with a rate of 102; the sedan is the 87.

Derrick G

Correction: I missed something the first time. Only vehicles from MY '05-'07 that are equivalent to the '08 model are included. Sorry about that.


Interesting that there are no Volvos in the Least Deadly list.

There's one thing you can't ignore about real-world data, on which these conclusions are based: You can't separate a car from its driver. Sporty-car drivers are more likely to drive aggressively, and luxury owners less likely, which you can see clearly in the distribution above. One could definitely argue that their emphasis on safety equipment also helps luxury cars. For owner-agnostic data, we have to rely on crash tests. Unfortunately, the relative lack of crash tests for low-volume sports cars might let them skate by with less protection than normal cars. Sadly, there are no easy answers.


Can you sort out by classes such as minivans, small cars, PUs, and etc?
Then it will be much easier for consumers to identify which is deadlier.


This should not come as a surprise to anyone. But in no way does this indicate that the people driving the small cars are always at fault for causing the accident, or that they always die when in an accident. In the case of a mid-intersection collision involving a Suburban and a Centurion (an old Ford equivalent to the Suburban), the Centurion ran a red light and T-boned the Suburban. Had this been a head-on collision the outcome would have been different. In another accident a Sentra T-boned a Windstar killing both drivers, albeit one faster than the other. Single-vehicle crashes give a better insight into which cars are safer, but often the occupants of large and heavy vehicles also die in single-car accidents. My preference would be to buy a vehicle that is the least deadly, and then hope someone doesn't T-bone me at an intersection.

It's a safe bet that Buicks are on the higher end of the death list cuz they are typically driven by really really old people.... :)

also, several cars on the least deadly list kind of puzzle me, because I doubt there are 1,000,000 of several vehicles mentioned, on the road.. like.. how often do you see a 4wd E class?

also, several cars on the least deadly list kind of puzzle me, because I doubt there are 1,000,000 of several vehicles mentioned, on the road.. like.. how often do you see a 4wd E class?

the million figure is for all vehicles, not specific to those models.

Mark of Excellence

I find it interesting that Honda Pilot is on the safe list, but no mention of its main competitor, Toyota Highlander. Does anyone know how the two compare in crash testing?


This is a bias study. 350z are as safe as any cars on the road, if it wasn't it wouldn't be sold. The problem lies in the drivers. Because the cars are affordable, younger inexperience drivers are behind the wheel. Give a kid this much power and they will abuse it. Another important notes is that most trims on the road are the cheaper base models with no traction, slip or stability, an added factor not considered. I'm sure if ferraris where cheap, the death rate would be astronomical.


@ Derrick G,

I think the numbers are normalized to 1000000 registered cars for each model.


Mark, my wife drives a 2008 Jap-built Highlander Limited AWD and I hope she never finds out how well it holds up in a crash. Then again, an accident doesn't have to be her fault. I'm hoping Toyota engineering will protect her.


No camry and Lexus es 350? on the most list.

Derrick G

Gee Mark, will you believe the tests if I tell you? The Highlander gets a Top Safety Pick in the IIHS tests. The Pilot misses it because it gets only a Marginal in roof strength. The report doesn't list the fatality rates for the Highlander and doesn't explain why. For the latest results on cost of claims for personal injury, bodily injury liability, and medical payment, the Pilot is better than average to substantially better than average on all while the Highlander ranges from average to better than average. Look for yourself here:

In NHTSA's new more stringent tests, the Pilot got a rating of 4 stars overall; the Highlander got the same. But the Honda did better in the frontal crash, the Toyota had an edge in the side crash.


This is how IIHS puts it: Rates are driver deaths per million registered vehicle years. A registered vehicle year is 1 vehicle registered for 1 year or 2 vehicles for 6 months each.


What's wrong with the Nissan Titan?
How can it make the deadliest list in three different configurations when no other full-size truck makes the list once?

What gives?

How biased is this title?
"Sports Cars, Small Cars Deadliest in Crashes"
Yet 2 of the top 5 are bigass trucks!


@ Zrated

I agree - My Tiburon is an extremely safe car. The are known to protect people very well. But if a car is driven a certain way the people will die no matter how safe the car is. Affordable cars with speed are dangerous. If I had my current car when I was 16 I would have driven like an extreme idiot.

Anonymous Coward

Guapo, the early model Titans didn't have ESC standard, and it was available only as part of an expensive option package, which a lot of people didn't buy. Combine that with a lot of horsepower, and it's not surprising that the result is an unsafe vehicle.


This list seems awfully silly. I own a vehicle on this list that was actually called an IIHS Top Safety Pick (the 2007 Subaru Legacy). The reasoning behind what makes these vehicles "deadly" has no real bearing on the actual safety of the vehicle.


@Christopher, the 4Matic E class is EVERYWHERE. They are a dime a dozen, everyone and their mother has a 4Matic Benz around here, an AWD Infiniti, an AWD BMW or some AWD Lexus. The midsize sport sedan seems to dominate.

Mark of Excellence

Derrick G,
Interesting stuff, I thought Highlander would be as good as Pilot in the testing. Thanks for the info.

Derrick G

You're welcome.

Derrick G

@What gives?

After pondering this, I think the biggest problem here is that IIHS is using this as a way to push back against fuel economy standards that tend to favor small vehicles yet they as much as admit the real solution here is to add ESC to everything, something the government has already mandated. True, many though not all of the best are bigger vehicles, some, like the Buick Lucerne and Mercury Grand Marquis (not listed above, but still at 57) are still big but don't do well. Also, the G. Marq's rate is 24 points ahead of its twin, the Ford Crown Vic.

None of the worst had ESC standard or even very widely installed. I want to see some Cruze vs. Cobalt and Forte vs. Spectra numbers. Plus, let's look at the Sonata vs. Optima numbers during the period. Sonata's 27 vs Optima's 61. These are quite similar cars even if not quite twins. Both got similar crash scores. Both saw lots of fleet sales. But Sonata had standard ESC; Optima had only as an option and not that many had that option. This is not the clarion call for more behemoths roaming the highways that IIHS is claiming it to be. Boo hiss to them.

None of your dang business.

I wonder how this would look if it included other driver deaths; i.e. accounted for the fact that while the driver of the SUV is safe, they're more likely to kill other people in a multiple-vehicle accident.


This must not be a rating of what cars are safest in a crash but what cars happen to be least/most involved in accidents. The legacy has very good crash ratings but it is probably more apt to be driven faster when roads are bad and thus more apt to have deaths? Being one of the most popular Vermont cars would thus have it be the most popular to get in a crash in also. My 2cents.

Derrick G

This is a list of what cars have the lowest death rates, whether it be because they most avoided accidents or because they protect the best once they're in one. ESC was pretty rare on Subarus until recently, so that well may partially account for a higher death rate. Can't prove it, but logic would indicate that having AWD would make you most popular on slick roads where having ESC would be that much more important for keeping control.


Perhaps it would be more accurate to look at number of deaths in relation to number of accidents rather than gross number of vehicles.

Deaths per million cars tells you nothing without controlling for what kind of driver is driving these vehicles.

Wait, it does tell you one thing. You should watch out for the vehicles on most deadly list when other people are driving them! Also, don't get into a 350Z when someone else is driving!


So people who drive "tanks" are safer. Imagine that! People who drive smaller environmentally conscience vehicles are more likely to die in a crash. Of the people in their statistics that died, how many got hit by an SUV Tank?


Not knowing complete details on how this study was done I have real concerns about it's accuracy. If you only take a million cars and not based on the same amount of each car involved in a deadly crash you don't take into account that there may be more of one type of car driven than the other. Like the Hyundai. That is a very common car so of course it will be involved in more accidents than a less common car. The other thing I hate about this report is that of course an SUV is going to be safer when it is plowing into a sedan. That is just a given.


The article is quite misleading. Readers should see the complete IIHS report for more accurate data. While I agree ESC can save lives, there is nothing better than being a defensive driver. I worked for 20 years in a utility company, before they allowed us to drive our service vehicle, our safety engineers gave us driving seminar and we have to pass a driving tests. To date I only had one minor accident and it wasn't even my fault.


This study is not about the behavior of the driver. It's about how the car withstands a collision, no matter how the collision occurred.


Correlation does not prove causality

How is it misleading? The IIHS' main point was ESC was likely the factor because of its adoption in SUVs prior to cars due to rollover likelihood. I would think rating the driving abilities of drivers in accidents would be impossible to quantify.

Derrick G

Well this study is about both how many collisions a model had and how well it held up if it had one. Since it's based on fatals/million registered vehicle years, numbers on the road should somewhat be accounted for.


These statistics strike me as useless, in the sense that they do not give a true estimate of deaths caused by particular vehicles.

In other words, how many deaths are caused by Jeep wranglers (for example), rather than how many people died inside of them? I could be wrong, but I'd guess that certain vehicles cause more deaths than others. I believe this both because of such vehicles being bigger and heavier, therefore causing more damage, but also because it seems people in "safer" vehicles drive less safely.


"Sports Cars, Small Cars Deadliest in Crashes" reads the headline.

So, if two tiny cars are in an accident together, they are more likely to result in death than if two SUV's are in an accident together?

Driver behavior does of course have an effect on the rankings here; how much, though, is difficult to determine. For example, the 350Z is listed as the most dangerous; it's easy to say that it's due to aggressive driving and not the car itself, but if that's the case, where's the Corvette? Or the Ford Mustang? It didn't even make the list, yet I'll wager there are many more Mustangs on the road. While not a true sports car, it is in the same performance range as the Z and would probably promote similarly aggressive driving.


Hello David,

I agree, but the way you summarized the report is too short and lacks data. For example you listed vehicles with the total deaths, while the IIHS report also included if it is multi-vehicle, single driver and roll-over crashes. I appreciate the article but not all readers would go and look for the IIHS report. I'm just saying you might as well tell the readers to look at the report so as not to draw a different conclusion. Thank you for reading my comment.

Ken Brey

The statistics should include car related deaths of pedestrians or the people other vehicle. If an Explorer and a Miata are in a collision, and the driver of the Miata is killed, half the death should be credited to the Explorer. The safest vehicle keeps its occupants alive, and other people too.



I'm sorry but the study is also not about how the vehicle withstands a collision but rather how Electronic Stability Control can prevent death in accidents in particular, single driver in rollover accidents.

I just mentioned driving behavior (being a defensive driver) to imply that it doesn't matter how safe the vehicle is if the person driving is not a safe driver.


A research on accident safety that was just introduced by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that SUVs are some of the safest vehicles on the road. SUVs used to be known as incredibly top-heavy and very prone to rolling over in an accident. However, since the launch of electronic stability controls, they have become far less dangerous in several conditions. I read the Study finds SUVs safer than smaller cars in auto accidents and its a great advantage for SUVs.


I have to laugh.The Subaru is supposibly one of the safest cars there is,with top safety picks all over (as Subaru will glaly tell you),yet its one of the deadliest cars on the road.Way to go,Boxer bunch!


What does the Aveo driver say as he's making his last breaths? "AAAhhhh.....veyyyy.....OOOOOoooo"...

Oh my god,
I am in the list of higher deaths.
Thanks David

Why is the colbalt on the deadly list?

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