Car crash statistics take a turn for the better

The world of motoring has had some good news this week, as safety improvements have meant that car crash fatalities plunged by just over 40% in a mere three years. In fact, on nine models of vehicle there were no deaths at all.

The new industry report, from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, found that in 2012, the last year for which figures are available, there were 28 driver deaths for every million cars produced in 2011.

For 2008 and 2009 models, that figure was 48, so that in the three years since, fatalities decreased by 41% – and this has been attributed to better safety technology and vehicle design.

Chief research office David Zuby said: “We know that crash test performance has been steadily improving. These latest fatality statistics give fresh confirmation of improving outcomes.”

Redesigned airbags and seat belts are thought to have been crucial to the improved statistics, while a number of car marques have been working on developing stronger structures and giving models better safety features, including electronic stability controls and anti-lock brakes.

Of course, it could also be that a generally weaker economy meant fewer deaths, since driving overall may have reduced in the recession.

Yet the gap between the riskiest and safest cars to drive is still wide. Three models from 2011 had more than 100 deaths for every million registered vehicle years.

These tend to be the less expensive, smaller vehicles. The safest models to drive, perhaps unsurprisingly, were found to be mid-size or bigger cars.

Those models that had no deaths recorded in them at all included:

• Honda Odyssey
• Kia Sorento
• Audi A4
• Lexus RX 350
• Subaru Legacy
• Mercedes-Benz GL-Class
• Toyoyta Highlander hybrid
• Toyota Sequoia
• Volvo XC90

The Institute has published fatality rates by model and make regularly over the last quarter century. Since passenger presence is unknown, the figures only cover motorist deaths.

This has to be good news for all drivers, at a time when insurance premiums are generally rising, and when it has never been more important to choose your provider carefully.