By Drew Johnson
Thursday, Jun 9th, 2011 @ 10:10 am
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has released its latest study on vehicle death rates, with the Nissan 350Z and small cars like the Chevrolet Aveo coming in as the biggest losers. The IIHS study also concluded that SUVs, once considered among the most dangerous vehicles on the road due to their propensity for rollover accidents, now rank towards the top in terms of total death rates.

The study, which calculated the driver death rate of vehicles from the 2005-08 model years during 2006-09 based on registered vehicle years, found that the Nissan 350Z had the highest driver death rate of any vehicle, tallying 143 deaths per million registered years. The Nissan Titan crew cab ranked second with 126 deaths per million registered years, followed by the Chevrolet Aveo with 119 and the Chevrolet Cobalt with 117.

On the whole, mini cars have the highest death rates of any vehicle segment, with an average rating of 82. Midsize sports cars are close behind with 80, followed by small cars with 72.

On the other side of the coin, the study found minivans to be the safest vehicles in terms of death rates, with an average rating of 25. The Toyota Sienna led the pack with a rating of 0, while the Dodge Grand Caravan ranked last with a rating of 63.

SUVs showed a marked improvement in the latest study, moving to second place behind minivans with 28 driver deaths per million registered years. The IIHS attributes the segment's improvement to the widespread adoption of electronic stability control programs.

"The rollover risk in SUVs used to outweigh their size/weight advantage, but that's no longer the case, thanks to ESC,"ť said Anne McCartt, the Institute's senior vice president for research.

The Ford Edge, Nissan Armada, Land Rover LR3 and Range Rover Sport ranked as the safest SUVs, all managing a 0 rating.

Despite some weak segments, the study concluded that today's vehicles are far safer than those from just a few years ago, as reflected by the study's average death rate of 48. In comparison, that figure was 79 for 2001-04 models during 2002-05 and 110 for 1989-1993 models.

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