A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that the chances of a driver dying in an automobile crash have fallen more than a third in the past three years. According to the report, 2011 model vehicles had an average death rate of 28 per million registered vehicles, while 2008 model vehicles averaged 48 deaths per million. In addition, a record number of vehicles had zero deaths per million registered vehicles. When the Institute conducted a similar study in 2006, they found no cars with zero driver fatalities per million.
While the Institute acknowledges that economic factors leading to a decrease in driving contributed, chief research officer David Zuby told the Washington Post the results were “a huge improvement.”
“We know from our vehicle ratings program that crash test performance has been getting steadily better,” Zuby added. “These latest death rates provide new confirmation that real-world outcomes are improving too.”
While the Institute’s study found no numerical change in the gap between the safest cars and those with the highest frequency of driver deaths, they did state that the safest cars had vastly improved. With newer designs featuring a lower center of gravity to prevent rollovers, the SUV has grown to become the safest vehicle style, with an average of 18 deaths per million registered vehicles. In contrast, cars averaged 38 deaths per million.
Of the nine vehicles found to have zero deaths per million registered vehicles, seven were luxury vehicles and six were SUVs.
While the latest data available was for 2011 models of vehicles, data from models as old as 2008 was included if those models had undergone no major changes by 2011. The Institute claimed that including older vehicles increased the accuracy and range of the results. To be included in the study, vehicles must have had at least 20 deaths or a minimum of 100,000 registered vehicles during the years of 2009 through 2012.