Are you driving a death trap or one of the safest cars on the road?
According to statistics from the independent, non-profit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), mass-produced cars are becoming safer. That translates to fewer fatalities from car accidents.
The institute's most recent numbers show 33,561 people were killed in automobile accidents in America in 2012.
Despite the fact that almost 3,000 people die in car crashes every month, the numbers are improving. In 1979 and 1980, more than 50,000 lives were lost in auto accidents. Additionally, the deaths per 100,000 people fell by 50% in the past 40 years.
IIHS credits improvements in car design (stability control, automatic braking system, etc.) for the drop in road fatalities.
The organization has also singled out a group of cars that stand out in terms of safety. Their most recent report cites nine cars that reported absolutely zero driver deaths in crashes.
This news was highlighted as a major improvement over what was considered the norm less than a decade ago. The IIHS report states, "Eight years ago, there were no models with driver death rates of zero. Now there are nine."
Are you driving one of the nine cars Yahoo news called "death-proof?"
One car manufacturer stands out with three vehicles among the nine top performers.
The following Toyota/Lexus models were reported to be free of fatalities in 2012: Toyota Highlander (hybrid 4WD), Toyota Sequoia (4WD) and the Lexus RX 350 (4WD)
The remaining, driver-death-free vehicles in alphabetical order: Audi A4 (4WD), Honda Odyssey, KIA Sorento (2WD), Mercedes-Benz GL Class (4WD), Subaru Legacy (4WD), Volvo XC90 (4WD).
On the flip side of the least deadly coin are the cars that own the notoriety of having been involved in the most number of fatal crashes.
In this category, IIHS monitors the highest rates of driver deaths based the number of driver deaths per million registered vehicle years. The cars that made the list of the deadliest had more than 46 driver deaths per million registered vehicle years.
Image via Ricardo Giaviti/flickr
With 149 deaths per million registered vehicles, the Kia Rio stands alone atop the list manufacturers would probably like to avoid.
Also scoring badly in this category, two from South Korea's Hyundai Motor Company - both the 2-door and 4-door versions of the Hyundai Accent made the list.
Nissan's 4-door Versa and Chevrolet's 4-door Aveo round out the rest of the highest death rates list.
IIHS was quick to point out that the size of the car appears to have a direct correlation to safety. Drivers of smaller cars appear to have a greater risk of dying than drivers of bigger cars.
All five of the cars on the "highest rates of driver deaths" list were in the mini or small car class. Conversely, every single one of the safest cars on their list was a mid-size or larger. Additionally, three of the nine safe cars were SUVs.
Where does your car or truck stand in terms of safety? See the full list here.
If you would like to know what makes a car safer in a crash, IIHS has also created this video called "Understanding Car Crashes: It's Basic Physics."
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