Remember the old warning of SUVs rolling over and killing you? Thanks to the spread of electronic stability systems, the opposite is now true. Late-model SUVs have the lowest driver death rates among all cars, according to a new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. In fact, the rollover death rate for model-year 2011 vehicles is 75 percent lower than it was among 2004 model-year cars.
IIHS analyzed driver death rates for 2011 models and 2008-2010 versions of the same cars (not a previous generation) from the 2009 through 2012 calendar year. During the observed period, two models accounted for zero driver deaths: the Honda Odyssey minivan and the Subaru Legacy sedan. Certain versions of seven other models had zero driver deaths, too: the front-wheel-drive Kia Sorento and all-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive versions of the Audi A4, Lexus RX 350, Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, Toyota Highlander Hybrid, Toyota Sequoia and Volvo XC90. Other versions of those models either had higher death rates or too small a sample size, IIHS spokesman Russ Rader told us, and the study was too far along by the time 2013 fatality data arrived late last year.
In total, five of the nine zero-death cars were SUVs. By contrast, eight of the 10 cars with the highest driver death rates were small cars: