Safest Cars In America: These 11 Vehicle Models Have the Lowest Driver Death Rate

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Crash tests are helpful, but real world crash data is hard to beat when comparing cars for safety.

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and its data-crunching partner the Highway Data Loss Institute, have just completed their latest study of the death rate of nearly all U.S. models from 2012 through 2015. The group tallies all of the crash deaths recorded by police reports and then organizes it into an easy to understand format. When the group finished its work this time, there were 11 models that earned a zero driver death rating.

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Automakers, the auto press, and regulators make crash test information available in a variety of forms. We prefer the IIHS evaluations because the testing the Institute conducts goes deeper than government testing. IIHS assertively updates its methodology and constantly improves its level of testing to push automakers further with each generation of cars. For 2017 it even includes headlight evaluations. However, crash testing is only a predictor. How cars, crossovers, Pickups, and SUVs perform in the real world is another important safety tool to consider when choosing a new car. As you can see from the above chart, the list of vehicles with a zero driver death rating includes small vehicles, large vehicles, sedans, pickups, and crossovers (called SUVs by IIHS). Choosing a vehicle based on its size and shape is not the best way to find a safe vehicle as we explained in our story, Myth Busted – Larger Heavier Vehicles Are Not Necessarily Safer.

One notable vehicle on this list is the Lexus RX 350. It is the only model to have been listed as a zero driver death rate model on this list, and the prior study done that focused on 2011 model year vehicles. The Lexus RX 350 has been a perennial Top Safety Pick Plus-rated vehicle by IIHS. Some validation that the crash testing IIHS conducts do help to predict real-world safety.

IIHS uses an unusual metric we have shortened to driver death rate. The metric is actually called “driver deaths per million registered vehicle years.” The metric accounts for hundreds of thousands of vehicles driven millions of miles. Vehicles are rated from a low of zero to a high in this year’s study of 104, unfortunately earned by the Hyundai Accent Sedan. Our chart at the top of page shows the top eleven models with a zero rate and the ten models that earned a rate of less than 8. You can view the full list here.

Charts and images courtesy of IIHS.