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Username: Karl

Post Number: 7118
Registered: 09-2005
Posted on Monday, April 30, 2007 - 3:10 pm:   Edit PostDelete Post   Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)


Smarter Cars, Fewer Deaths

Latest Crash Data Offer Encouraging Picture,
But Will Disappoint Fuel-Economy Advocates

April 30, 2007 WSJ Online

Drivers may not be getting any smarter, but cars are -- and that appears to be driving down the risk of dying behind the wheel.

To further put the odds in your favor, drive a big luxury car, a large minivan or a car-based crossover wagon equipped with electronic stability control.

These are a few conclusions drawn from a recent study of vehicle fatal-crash data compiled by experts at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the vehicle-safety research arm of the insurance industry. The Institute's Status Report on driver deaths, published April 19, also has some not-so-good news for Detroit's struggling brands, and raises red flags for Greens who wish Americans would buy more fuel-efficient, smaller vehicles.

The big-picture view of the fatality statistics is encouraging, says Anne McCartt, the Institute's senior vice president for research. Between 2002 and 2005, the average death rate for drivers of 2001-2004 car and light-truck models was 79 deaths per million registered vehicle years. That's down from 110 deaths per million registered vehicle years for 1989-1993 models during the 1990-1994 period.

"It's more the vehicles than drivers" that deserve credit for this trend, Ms. McCartt says. Too many people drink and drive, almost everyone drives too fast and a stubborn 20% or so still refuse to wear seat belts regularly. But newer vehicles, particularly luxury vehicles, are becoming more crash-worthy, she says, and "some of the safety technology is really making a difference."

The difference is not just the proliferation of airbags, including side airbags. Electronic stability control, known by various acronyms including ESC, appears to be a big factor behind an improvement in the rate of deaths in single-vehicle-rollover crashes for certain sport-utility vehicles. The two-wheel-drive Lexus RX 330, one of a growing number of crossover wagons that rides on a car-like chassis, recorded no rollover deaths in the study period. This vehicle typically comes with stability control, the IIHS says.

Stability-control systems typically work by monitoring the motion of the vehicle and automatically applying the brakes to arrest a sideways skid. The government has mandated installation of such technology by 2012, though many auto makers are moving more quickly. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has estimated 100% installation of stability control could save 5,300 to 9,600 lives a year.


These 10 vehicles had the fewest driver deaths for 2001-2004 models during calendar years 2002-2005, measured in deaths per million registered vehicle years:

Model - Driver Deaths

Chevrolet Astro (minivan, very large) 7
Infiniti G35 (luxury car, midsize) 11
BMW 7 series (luxury car, very large) 11
Toyota 4Runner (4WD SUV, midsize) 13
Audi A4/S4 Quattro (4dr car, midsize) 14
Mercedes E class (luxury car, large) 14
Toyota Highlander (4WD SUV, midsize) 14
Mercedes M class (4WD SUV, midsize) 14
Toyota Sienna (minivan, very large) 17
Honda Odyssey (minivan, very large) 17

Source: IIHSIn contrast, nine vehicles -- all conventional SUVs and pickup trucks that ride high on ladder frames -- had single-vehicle-rollover death rates of 75 per million registered vehicle years. (Among them, versions of the Ford Explorer Sport Trac, Chevrolet Blazer, Mitsubishi Montero Sport, Ford F-250 pickup, Ford Ranger pickup and the mechanically similar Mazda B-series pickup.)

The rollover figures highlight another trend: Vehicles with old designs tend to have worse numbers than models redesigned more recently with the latest crash tests and safety-engineering technology in mind. The Institute's report highlights the improvement in the fatality rate for the Ford F-150 pickup. The 2001 F-150, based on the previous-generation design, has a death rate of 118 per million registered vehicle years. The redesigned 2004 model has a death-rate score of 58, and it also did far better in the Institute's crash tests.

This is another way in which the competitive handicaps of Detroit's three auto makers weigh down American brands. Of the 10 passenger-car segments covered in the Institute's report that had three or more models measured, seven of the top-ranked vehicles came from European or Asian brands. Among 14 light-truck categories with three or more vehicles measured, eight of the No. 1 vehicles -- that is, the vehicle with the lowest overall fatality rate -- came from Asian or European brands.

"If you look at the worst performers, some of those are older models," says Ms. McCartt. "U.S. manufacturers don't redesign as quickly. The new designs do better in our crash tests and are more likely to have the safety features" such as stability control.

One exception to this premise is the Chevrolet Astro van, an aged and now-discontinued design that ranked No. 1 among 2001-2004 models with a death rate of just seven fatalities per million registered vehicle years. But before you rush out to a used car lot to grab one, keep in mind the demographics of the Astro's customer base skewed heavily toward people who were driving a company van on the job.

Setting aside the Astro, 14 of the 15 best models based on overall fatality rates came from European or Asian makes. Six were Toyota models -- either Lexuses or Toyotas such as the Lexus ES 330 sedan or the Toyota 4Runner SUV. Two were BMWs. The best sedan was the Infiniti G35 from Nissan. Two Honda models -- the Odyssey minivan and Pilot crossover wagon -- made the list, as did the Audi A4 sedan and the Mercedes E and M Class.


These 10 vehicles had the most driver deaths for 2001-2004 models during calendar years 2002-2005, measured in deaths per million registered vehicle years:

Model - Driver Deaths

Chevrolet Blazer 2dr (2WD SUV, midsize) 232
Acura RSX (2dr car, small) 202
Nissan 350Z (sports car, midsize) 193
Kia Spectra hatchback (4dr car, small) 191
Pontiac Sunfire (2dr car, small) 179
Kia Rio (4dr car, mini) 175
Chevrolet Cavalier (2dr car, small) 171
Mitsubishi Eclipse (2dr car, small) 169
Dodge Neon (4dr car, small) 161
Pontiac Grand Am (2dr car, midsize) 160

Source: IIHS Finally, here's the bad news for Greens. The statistics reinforce, again, the argument that occupants of heavy passenger cars have a better chance of surviving a collision than drivers of small sedans, or any kind of pickup truck or SUV.

The overall fatality rate for 2001-2004 cars weighing 4,000 to 4,500 pounds (a Mercedes S Class or Lincoln Town Car) was 38 on the IIHS scale. That compares to 65 for a similar-sized SUV and 93 for pickups of the same weight. Best of all were sedans weighing more than 4,500 pounds, such as the BMW 7 series.

Worst category of all: SUVs weighing 2,501 to 3,000 pounds, with a death rate of 131. (The divergence in this class is stark. The Chevrolet Tracker, now discontinued, had a death rate of 132, compared to 44 for a Mazda Tribute.) Sedans weighing 2,501 to 3,000 pounds (Chevy Cavalier, Ford Focus) had an average death rate of 115, while small cars weighing under 2,500 pounds (Hyundai Accent, Honda Civic) had a death rate of 94. (My car, the Subaru Impreza WRX, wasn't listed.)

The problem for advocates of better fuel economy is that big, safe luxury cars generally consume more fuel than compact sedans -- at least until the European luxury-car makers start bringing their high-mileage Euro diesel engines to this market. A gasoline-burning BMW 760Li can be expected to average 17 miles per gallon in combined city/highway driving, according to the government's measures (www.fueleconomy.gov2). The best small sedan in the IIHS study, the Volkswagen Golf (rechristened the Rabbit for 2007), averages a combined 26 mpg. But the fatality rate in the Big Bimmer is 11 compared to the little VW's 45.

This point will come up again and again as politicians, auto makers and consumers debate how best to burn less gasoline.

• Send comments about Eyes on the Road to joseph.white@wsj.com3.

URL for this article:
http://online.wsj.com/article/ SB117781748693586102.html
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Username: Ndavies

Post Number: 2575
Registered: 10-2003
Posted on Monday, April 30, 2007 - 3:35 pm:   Edit PostDelete Post   Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Sorry I have to question the studies use of the data. It completely leaves out the vehicle's target market driver tendencies.

Deaths per 1 million registered vehicle years is not a valid comparison. Certain vehicles draw in certain types of drivers. This would skew the collected data. Vehicles that were in more collisions than others would rate very badly in this comparison. I'm sure if you looked at the data, the vehicles that have a poor showing were involved in a proportionally higher number of accidents.

Luxury vehicles tend to have higher income older drivers who, according to the insurance industry, are less likely to get in an accident. Small econo boxes tend to be driven by younger drivers with there less experienced driving techniques.

A better study would have been the number of deaths per accident. However, this probably would not support the study writer's claims.

The astro van is one of worst handling biggest POS on the road. They don't get in many accidents since their drivers are terrified of pushing them into any kind of advanced handling maneuver.
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Username: Karl

Post Number: 7123
Registered: 09-2005
Posted on Monday, April 30, 2007 - 4:22 pm:   Edit PostDelete Post   Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Ndavies, perhaps you could email the author with your concerns? I suspect you'd receive clarification, maybe you could post it here.
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Username: Ndavies

Post Number: 2579
Registered: 10-2003
Posted on Monday, April 30, 2007 - 4:47 pm:   Edit PostDelete Post   Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Actually Karl, I rescind my comments. Looking through the report they had put in a correction for some driver tendencies.


How the rates are computed: Institute researchers computed driver death rates in all crashes and in multiple vehicle, single-vehicle, and single-vehicle rollover crashes for 202 passenger vehicle models (2001-04) with at least
120,000 registered years or 20 driver deaths during the study years (2002-05).
Each model’s rate represents the reported number of driver deaths divided by the model’s number of registered years. Data are from the federal government’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System and registration counts from The Polk Company.
Exposure varies considerably among the vehicles. For example, the number of registered years for midsize 4-door cars exceeds 11 million. This compares with about 550,000 for very large 4-door
cars. Because of this variability, researchers computed 95 percent confidence intervals with
upper and lower bounds indicating the precision
of the computed rates.
The rates reflect the influences of both vehicle design and patterns of use. Rates are displayed by market group because of the influence of driver demographics and the increased likelihood of similarity among drivers of similar vehicles.
Researchers adjusted each of the 202 vehicles’ rates according to the proportion of deaths of women 25- 64 years old (drivers in this group are in fewer fatal crashes per licensed driver). For most vehicles the rates changed by less than
20 percent. These adjustments take away most of the differences among vehicles caused by driver
gender, though other demographics still influence the rates.

Spending days looking through reams of data makes me leary of taking a news articles suppositions without seeing the studies proposed methods.
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Username: Futurecity

Post Number: 521
Registered: 05-2005
Posted on Monday, April 30, 2007 - 5:43 pm:   Edit PostDelete Post   Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Overall, people killed in car crashes are not down. Holding steady at 43,000 slaughtered (+250,000 maimed!) each year. Last year, the year before that, and on and on.

Cars may have more safety features, but that is all smoke and mirrors. An illusion to get the consumer to spend more and drive more. Safety improvements are negated by more "forced driving" and the continued massive government subsidy of the creation and expansion of forced-driving environments - aka sprawl.
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Username: Ndavies

Post Number: 2580
Registered: 10-2003
Posted on Monday, April 30, 2007 - 6:07 pm:   Edit PostDelete Post   Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Actually future city, if look at the data, the number of miles driven per year has sky rocketed. So with the number of miles driven jumping, even a steady death rate is a win.

$6.00 a gallon for gas would do wonders for the total annual auto deaths. It would slash the number of miles driven by private car.
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Username: Futurecity

Post Number: 522
Registered: 05-2005
Posted on Monday, April 30, 2007 - 9:12 pm:   Edit PostDelete Post   Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

43,000 annual deaths + 250,000 maimed (just in the U.S.) can only be a catastrophic loss (50x worse than our iraq "war without end").

As long as regions such as ours mandate endless driving for life's basic needs, the slaughter will continue.

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