IIHS Driver Fatality Rate Stats

The IIHS does this every so often, e.g. see here for their report from a couple of years ago.

So, the latest is Dying in a Crash, Vol 46, No. 5, June 2011. It covers 2005-08 model year passenger vehicles during calendar years 2006-09. It also specifically only covers driver fatality rates.

The big news is that SUVs, which long have had higher death rates than passenger cars — due to the much higher rollover deaths — have become safer, due presumably to the prevalance of ESC (electronic stability control) in newer model SUVs.

There is no accounting for attempt to account for danger imposed on others.

What the WSJ Thinks

The WSJ has been running the same editorial and op-eds for as long as there’s been a CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Econonmy, probably 30 years old now), the same sort of opinion; which is there is this supposedly direct-line relationship between CAFE and death. Now, I don’t like CAFE as much as the next guy but there is way more to the story than the likes of Sam Kazen of the CEI and the WSJ editorial board lets on.  In today’s example: Why Your New Car Doesn’t Have a Spare Tire:Auto makers comply with fuel economy mandates by making cars lighter and more dangerous. Kazman for example fails to point out the part about how SUVs formerly (as of the last report!) were more dangerous than comparable (i.e. lighter) cars (the roll over bit); he fails to point out the most dangerous model, the Nissan 350z has the curb weight of a mid-size car(~3,500 pounds), yet is something like 3x as dangerous. In other words there is far more going on than just the weight; it has a lot to do with how, and who, is driving a particular model.

A couple of other unexplainable details: the fatality rate in the US has been crashing, breaking historical records on the low side, over the past few years — this is true even for the fatality rate per mile driven (a partial explanation for this recent trend is the slowing economy; which generally will cause fewer miles to be driven. Thus one would expect the number of fatalites to decline as a natural result, but not the rate)

see here for links to federal data 2005 – 2010; the per VMT rate has fallen some 30% in just 5 years! The VMT rate has dropped precipitously since the pre-CAFE 1970’s (it declined e.g. from 4 in 1970 to around 1 in 2010; a 75% decline), when cars were on average far heavier.

By international standards of other industrialized countries, the US, despite declines, has high fatality rates — in virtually all these countries, the cars are significantly lighter (the lightness due, presumably, to much more expensive fuel prices).

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