A recent study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is reporting that better vehicle designs, more safety features, and other technological innovations have helped significantly save lives on American roadways. According to the study – which analyzed crash reports involving 2011 model cars during the 2012 calendar year – auto safety improvements have brought death rates down.
IIHS collected and reviewed a considerable amount of data during the study and focused on rates of driver deaths per million registered vehicles. The study reported the following major findings:
- The chances of dying in a 2011-model-year vehicle in an auto accident decreased by more than a third in three years.
- A record nine 2011 model vehicles had driver death rates of zero.
- In 2012, there were an estimated 7,700 fewer driver deaths than there would have been if vehicles remained the same as they were in 1985.
The statistics speak volumes about the benefits of new safety features. Although IIHS cited a number of various safety improvements that helped reduce driver deaths, it also cited better structural designs, improved safety features like blind-spot detectors, and an evolving mix of vehicle types as the main factors behind declining risks.
Researchers were also taken back by how fast and how substantial safety improvements helped death rates decline. For example, there were 28 deaths per million registered vehicle years among 2011 models during the 2012 calendar year. This is down from 48 deaths for 2008 models during 2009.
While the results of the study are reassuring to safety experts and consumers, it also revealed a wide gap in vehicle safety, especially among smaller vehicles. According to the study, there are 19 vehicles with driver death rates of 49 or greater. The Kia Rio, which was found to be the deadliest vehicle, had a death rate of 149.
Eight years ago, there were zero vehicles with driver death rates of zero – and now there are nine. This fact speaks volumes about the effectiveness of modern innovation, especially when it comes to auto safety. Still, the gap between our safest and most dangerous cars shows that there is much room for improvement before we reach the ultimate goal of zero roadway deaths.