According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, almost every 10 seconds there is a motor vehicle accident injury somewhere in the United States. Even minor accidents can have long-term effects — from lingering physical injury to persistent psychiatric ailments like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A serious brain injury or a concussion can cause effects that last for decades, even if a brain scan does not show visible damage. In a country like the U.S., with an inadequate public transit system, road travel is a necessity of life, and this dependency on personal transportation makes it critical that vehicle owners know about the most dangerous vehicles on the road.
Generally, vehicle fatality data indicates that the most dangerous vehicles have some combination of these characteristics:
- They are lightweight
- They lack proper side-impact protection
- They are prone to roll-over
- They do not handle well
- They are missing electronic-stability control protection
Past studies have found GM and Nissan vehicles to be more dangerous and involved in the highest number of fatalities per million registrations.
Inadequate Safety Features Make Fatalities or Serious Injuries More Likely
According to Forbes Magazine, safety experts agree the best way to tell how dangerous a vehicle is is by examining the way it’s made. Some important factors to look out for are rollover risk, stability control, and side-impact protection. When Forbes magazine examined cars using these criteria, they found the unsafe cars were the Buick Rendezvous, Ford Ranger, Mazda B-Series, Nissan Frontier, Ford Escape, Mercury Mariner, and the Toyota Yaris brands.
Crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety revealed side-impact and rear whiplash protection was an important safety feature. Head injuries from inadequate side-impact protection can be fatal, but the likelihood of surviving a side-impact crash improves when a car has side-curtain airbags. Depending on car designs, side-curtain airbags may also increase the likelihood of surviving rollovers.
If you are in a lighter and smaller vehicle, you are disadvantaged in crashes with bigger and heavier vehicles. However, such vehicles also possess flexibility advantages, as they are easier to handle and more nimble than bulkier vehicles. Heavier vehicles are at a disadvantage in single-vehicle accidents caused by loss of control -- and such accidents cause 43% of fatalities. A corrective measure to address this weakness is the addition of electronic stability control systems. The federal government mandated this additional protection for all car models from 2012 onwards. Safety experts have said this protection lowers the risk of single-vehicle crash fatalities by 56%. Rollover fatalities are reduced by 80% for SUVs and 77% for passenger cars that had electronic stability control systems.
Pickups, which lag in electronic stability control systems and are prone to rollovers because of higher centers of gravity continue to rank as very unsafe for drivers. Based on fatality and serious injury data, pickups are the most dangerous vehicle category for drivers.
Manufacturing Flaws are Not the Only Reason for Accidents
The Forbes article also reported insurance industry data revealed sometimes it is not the car’s fault. For instance, the Nissan 350Z has a death rate almost double the death rate from accidents in sports cars. The reason behind this alarming rate is that it is often driven by younger, more risk-taking and less experienced drivers. Inexperienced drivers are also more prone to crash fatalities in unsafe vehicle categories, such as pickups.