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The 10 Deadliest Vehicles for Occupants, According to the IIHS

Mitsubishi Mirage
Photo: Mitsubishi
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Daniel Rufiange
No surprise, small vehicles are less able to protect their occupants

•    The IIHS has compiled a list of the models that lead to the most occupant fatalities during accidents.

Modern vehicles may be safer than ever, but road deaths are still a reality. And like it or not, the type of vehicle we drive does have an impact on our chances of survival in the event of an accident. 

It's not true that all large vehicles are safer than smaller ones, but the data shows certain truths, especially when accidents pit a large SUV or truck against a small car. Depending on the type of impact, it's clear that chances of survival tend to be greater aboard a larger vehicle. 

But it's not automatic. SUVs roll over more easily than cars, for example.

Still, a study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the equivalent of Transport Canada, speaks volumes. The agency recently produced a list of the vehicle models with the highest fatality rates for the 2020 model-year. It found that the most powerful and smallest cars were the most likely to be fatal to their occupants in the event of an accident.

2022 Chevrolet Camaro
2022 Chevrolet Camaro
Photo: D.Rufiange

The IIHS has been calculating fatality rates every three years since 1989. The latest analysis is the first to include results for the best and worst models. What's striking is that six of the 21 models with the worst driver fatality rates are muscle cars, including the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro Camaro, Dodge Challenger and Dodge Charger. In these cases, one has to wonder about the driving habits of the owners involved, and the speeds involved. 

Still, these are not the most dangerous of the lot. The two variants of the Mitsubishi Mirage have the highest fatality rates. At the other extreme, the BMW X3, Lexus ES 350 and Mercedes-Benz E-Class have the lowest fatality rates.

The overall average for this latest study is 38 deaths per million vehicles registered. This figure is up in comparison with 2017 (36) and 2011 (28).

Hyundai Accent blue
Hyundai Accent blue
Photo: Hyundai

Here’s the IIHS’ new list of vehicle models with the highest fatality rates:

    Mitsubishi Mirage G4: 205 deaths
    Mitsubishi Mirage hatchback: 183 deaths
    Dodge Challenger: 154 deaths
    Hyundai Accent: 152 deaths
    Chevrolet Spark: 151 deaths
    Kia Rio (sedan): 122 deaths
    Dodge Charger (Hemi engine, two-wheel drive): 118 deaths
    Chevrolet Camaro Cabriolet: 113 deaths
    Nissan Altima: 113 deaths
    Kia Forte: 111 deaths

With regard to what was said about the speed some muscle cars can reach, it's interesting to note that the IIHS obtained different figures for the Dodge Charger. While the rear-wheel drive, Hemi-powered version makes the list with 118 deaths per million, the figures are less alarming for the V6-powered variant at 91, even if they are above average. As for the coupe version of the Chevrolet Camaro, it's not far behind its folding-top variant, with a rate of 110. The Ford Mustang completes the list of American coupes with 97 (especially convertibles).

The data presented by the IIHS show a predictable discrepancy: Smaller cars are more deadly for their occupants, while larger vehicles tend to kill more other drivers. The Ram 3500, Dodge Charger and Ford F-350 are the deadliest to other road users.

Daniel Rufiange
Daniel Rufiange
Automotive expert
  • Over 17 years' experience as an automotive journalist
  • More than 75 test drives in the past year
  • Participation in over 250 new vehicle launches in the presence of the brand's technical specialists