Rather unsurprisingly, a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or IIHS found muscle cars like the Chevy Camaro to be among the models with the most fatal accidents annually, along with small cars and minicars.
At the opposite end of the scale, IIHS research showed minivans, SUVs, and certain luxury cars as some of the safest vehicles currently on the road.
While muscle cars are among the deadliest vehicles in terms of driver and other-driver deaths, IIHS points out luxury vehicles with almost the same performance are among the safest on the road based on statistics. Many of the luxury vehicles with their infrequent deaths and high safety record are just as powerful and accelerate almost as quickly as the muscle cars.
IIHS speculates the difference results from the perception of the vehicles and how they are driven as a result. The race-inspired features and aesthetics of muscle cars, IIHS suggests, prompt aggressive, dangerous driving. Meanwhile, equally powerful and capable luxury vehicles are seen as refined and comfortable, leading to careful, safe driving despite the horsepower under the hood.
For deaths of the vehicle driver, the two most fatal types of cars are large sports or muscle cars and small cars, including minicars. While muscle car deaths may be due to reckless driving, small cars and minicars offer reduced protection to the driver and suffer worse damage in collisions with larger vehicles.
Small Mitsubishi, Hyundai, and Kia vehicles are particularly fatal to their own drivers in accidents. However, small GM cars, including the Chevy Spark and Chevy Sonic, also make the list of vehicles with a high lethality to their own drivers when involved in a crash. Kia vehicles tend to be involved in fatal accidents frequently, including both driver and other-driver deaths, regardless of size.
Large passenger vehicles (with the exception of sports cars and muscle cars) tend to be safer for their own drivers, but – again unsurprisingly – cause more other-driver fatalities in accidents. Ford and Ram pickups are among the most deadly to other drivers, while the Chevy Blazer was the only GM vehicle to make the other-driver fatality list. GM pickups are notably absent from the list of top killers.
The Buick Encore scores as the best vehicle for few other-driver deaths, causing only 6 fatalities per million versus the Ram 3500’s 189 other-driver deaths per million. The Chevy Bolt EV, Chevy Trax, and Chevy Traverse are also among the least-lethal vehicles for other drivers.
Perhaps surprisingly, the safest vehicles for drivers (as opposed to other drivers) are not the largest passenger vehicles, but mid-size models. Drivers of mid-size SUVs, mid-size minivans, and mid-size luxury vehicles fared the best for survival in crashes. While BMWs, Toyotas, Volvos, and various European and Japanese vehicles fill most of the list, the Chevy Traverse was once again a winner, with only 6 deaths per million drivers.
The IIHS study used data from 2018 through 2021, focusing most strongly on 2020 vehicle models.