Special Report

The Deadliest Cars to Drive in America

Through the first three quarters of 2022, an estimated 31,785 Americans died in motor vehicle accidents. These figures, which come from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, mean traffic fatalities are on track to remain near the 2021 total, which was the most since 2005. President Joe Biden’s administration has called the rise in motor vehicle deaths a crisis.

While a single explanation for the sharp increase has not been determined, one article published in the American Psychological Association pointed to the pandemic’s effect on American drivers’ behavior, including an increase in risky driving, as a potential cause. (These are the states with the worst distracted driving problem.)

Not all cars are involved in fatal crashes to the same extent. While safety features in cars have vastly improved over the years, there are some vehicles that receive poor grades in safety measures. Some of these cars, as well as cars that receive good safety grades, are among the cars that are more likely to be involved in fatal crashes. 

To find the deadliest cars in America, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed fatal car crashes data from the NHTSA and car sales data from GoodCarBadCar. Both fatal crashes and sales are from 2018-2020, with 2020 being the most recent year for which crash data is available. Crash figures are also for 2018 model year vehicles or later. Models with fewer than 100,000 cars sold in the three-year period or with no sales or crash data were excluded.

Safety standards in vehicles have improved over the years, and cars that fail standard safety tests are rare. Many of the cars on this list received top marks from safety ratings agencies. However, a number of cars received mediocre or poor grades in the small overlap front crash test, created by nonprofit vehicle safety organization the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The test measures what happens when the front corner of the vehicle hits an object, as opposed to the entire front part of the car taking the impact.

Three of the four cars with the highest fatalities per vehicle sold are sports sedans, which people buy because they can go fast. Driving at excessive speeds is one of the biggest causes of motor vehicle deaths. (These are the worst car accidents since the 1990s)

A number of the cars ranking close to the top of this list (meaning they were involved in more crashes) are compact and subcompact vehicles. In a 2020 report published by the IIHS, smaller vehicles are more dangerous simply because they have less mass, which means they take the worst of a collision with a larger one, even if the vehicle has good safety ratings

Click here to see the deadliest cars to drive in America.

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