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IIHS Proves Small, Late-Model Cars to be the Most Dangerous

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After examining the latest available new driver death rates, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has determined that late-model small cars present the most danger to drivers.

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“Smaller vehicles offer less protection for the driver in crashes, and their lighter mass means that they take the brunt of collisions with larger vehicles,” said Joe Nolan, senior vice president of vehicle research for the IIHS.

The highest rate was achieved by minicars, with a rate of 82, according to the IIHS. Out of the 20 models that posted the lowest death rates, close to half of them were high-end, luxury SUVs. The vehicle type with the lowest overall death rate, though, is very large SUVs. Per every million vehicle year registered, very large SUVs accounted for 15 deaths.

“The average driver death rate for all 2017 models increased to 36 deaths, compared with 30 for 2014 models. That’s a further increase from a low of 28 for 2011 models following a steady decline since the 1970s,” reports the IIHS.

Every three years since 1989, the IIHS has evaluated death rates to help determine what vehicle types pose the greatest and least risk. The data is drawn from IHS Markit and recorded from the federal Fatality Analysis Reporting System.

The IIHS also conducts crash tests on vehicles to help predict how the vehicle will perform in different types of accidents. Crashworthiness is evaluated in tests focusing on small overlap front (driver- and passenger-side), moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraints and seats. Vehicles can earn test scores of good, acceptable, marginal, and poor. Crash avoidance and mitigation are also evaluated and vehicles can earn ratings of superior, advanced, and basic. Depending on how a vehicle is rated by the IIHS in these evaluations will determine whether they earn designations of Top Safety Pick+ or Top Safety Pick.

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IIHS safety ratings can help you narrow down your choice for a new vehicle.