(reprinted with permission from www.menshealth.com)
If you’re driving one of these cars, try not to get into an accident.
The top five most fatal vehicles on the road are subcompacts, lightweight rides like the Kia Rio that are even smaller than compacts, according to a new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The organization ranked the cars with the highest numbers of driver deaths over four years per one million registered vehicles. The four-door Kia Rio, the Nissan Versa sedan, and the four-door Hyundai Accent topped the list, with death rates of 149, 130, and 120 per million cars, respectively.
It’s no surprise that subcompacts can be dangerous, according to Lauren Fix, author of Driving Ambitions: A Complete Guide to Amateur Auto Racing.
“Think back to high school physics: action and reaction,” Fix says. “There are larger cars on the road, and an impact from a larger car amplifies the damage to a smaller car.” It’s your basic David-and-Goliath story, except in this case, David—your tiny car—gets stomped like a bug.
Of course, there are advantages to having a smaller car, like gas mileage and fitting into city parking spaces. But the lighter your ride, the more of a safety tradeoff you may be making. According to a 2011 study by the US Department of Energy, for every 100 pounds under 3,106 your car weighs, it becomes significantly more likely to kill you. (The Kia Rio weighs in at about 2,400 pounds.)
On top of that, cheaper cars tend to skimp on advanced safety features, Fix says, such as knee airbags, rollover protection, active cruise control, and other accident avoidance systems.
Here are the 10 models that top the Institute’s list, and the number of driver deaths between 2009 and 2012 per one million registered vehicles:
1. Kia Rio four-door, 149
2. Nissan Versa sedan, 130
3. Hyundai Accent four-door, 120
4. Chevrolet Aveo, 99
5. Hyundai Accent two-door, 86
6. Chevrolet Camaro coupe, 80
7. Chevrolet Silverado 1500 crew 4WD, 79
8. Honda Civic two-door, 76
9. Nissan Versa hatchback, 71
10. Ford Focus, 70
If you already own one, there are some extra precautions you can take. “Seatbelts and airbags are an important team,” Fix says. “So always wear yours and make sure you’re sitting with your chest 12 inches from the airbags.” It’s also crucial to check your tires at least once every month, she says. “Proper tread and pressures give you better handling, braking, acceleration, and fuel economy,” Fix explains. “The contact patch is all you have on the ground to avoid an accident.”
(And be sure to check out How to Drive Safely in Winter Weather.)
On the hunt for a new car? Fix suggests looking at NHTSA crash test ratings at safercar.gov before you buy. If you’re looking for an affordable, ultra-safe, and relatively small vehicle, the mid-size Subaru Legacy starts at $21,695 and had zero driver deaths, according to the Institute’s study.