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New Study Shows Crash Fatalities More Common in Subcompacts and Sports Cars

A recent data analysis by iSeeCars.com, an automotive research firm and car search engine, showed that occupant fatalities from car crashes occur almost twice as often in subcompact cars and sports cars compared to the average vehicle.

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A recent data analysis by iSeeCars.com, an automotive research firm and car search engine, showed that occupant fatalities from car crashes occur almost twice as often in subcompact cars and sports cars compared to the average vehicle.

iSeeCars.com analyzed fatality data of model year 2013-2017 cars from the U.S. Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and more than 25 million used cars from the same model years to determine the vehicles that are most often involved in fatal accidents. It found that there are 14 models that are at least two times as likely as the average vehicle to be involved in a fatal accident.

iSeeCars Study – Cars with the Most Frequent Occupant Fatalities
RankVehicleFatal Accident Rate (Cars per Billion Vehicle Miles)
1Mitsubishi Mirage10.2
2Chevrolet Corvette9.8
3Honda Fit7.7
4Kia Forte7.4
5Chevrolet Spark7.2
6Subaru BRZ6.9
7Nissan 370Z6.2
8Nissan Versa6.1
9Kia Rio5.9
10Dodge Challenger  5.8
11Chevrolet Camaro5.5
12Kia Soul5.3
13Hyundai Veloster Turbo5.2
14Nissan Versa Note5.2
Average for All Vehicles2.6

Subcompact cars and sports cars tie as the most represented vehicle categories with six vehicles each. 

“Despite recent advances in safety technology, our data suggests that small vehicles still aren’t as safe as larger vehicles when they are involved in serious accidents,” said Phong Ly, CEO of iSeeCars. “Subcompact cars have a fatal accident rate of 4.5 cars per billion vehicle miles, which is almost double the overall average. Sports cars are the vehicle segment with the highest fatal accident rate of 4.6 cars per billion vehicle miles. They’re designed to prioritize speed and acceleration, so it is perhaps no surprise that their accidents result in a high number of fatalities.”

The subcompact cars with the highest fatal accident rates include the Mitsubishi Mirage with the most fatalities followed by the third-highest Honda Fit, the fifth-highest Chevrolet Spark, the eighth-highest Nissan Versa, the ninth-highest Kia Rio and the 14th-highest Nissan Versa Note.

One possible reason for the subcompact segment’s prevalence on the list could be the result of a lack of active safety features.

“The Chevrolet Spark and the Honda Fit are the only subcompacts in the model years examined that include active safety features beyond rearview cameras on some trims,” said Ly. “For its 2016 model year, the Spark introduced forward collision warning, lane departure warning and blind spot monitoring, while the Fit introduced a passenger side blind spot monitoring system in 2015.”

Another common trend among the cars in the subcompact segment is below-average performance on crash safety tests. While many of these vehicles have four and five-star overall safety ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), they did not perform well in certain crash safety tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The Mitsubishi Mirage, Nissan Versa and the Nissan Versa Note each earned the lowest possible “poor” rating in the IIHS small overlap front driver test, which tests what happens when the vehicle’s front corner collides with another car or an object such as a pole.

Similar to subcompact cars, sports cars do not typically have advanced safety features beyond a rearview camera. The exceptions are the Dodge Challenger and the Chevrolet Camaro, which do have advanced safety features on certain trims including forward collision warning in the Challenger, rear-cross traffic and rear parking sensors in the Camaro, and blind spot monitoring in both models.

Two compact Kias round out the list of vehicles with the highest fatal accident rates, including the fourth-highest Kia Forte and the 12th-highest Kia Soul. Each vehicle has earned the “Top Safety Pick” designation from IIHS.

“In crash tests, the Soul had positive ratings, while the Forte earned the lowest possible rating of ‘poor’ in the Institute’s passenger side safety test,” said Ly. “These vehicles’ fatal accident rates show that no matter how safe a vehicle has been designed to be, it may not be able to fully protect you from serious accidents.”

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