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A recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has revealed that driving in a small car in the United States is steadily becoming more dangerous for motorists, at least according to the data gathered by the agency every three years.

IIHS’s latest study used data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System database. It ranked all 2017 model year vehicles sold in the United States by deaths per million registered vehicle years (RVY).

The results show that “minicars” comprised 75% of the 20 models that tallied the highest death rates. Moreover, out of the models that showed the lowest fatality rates, almost half were luxury SUVs and CUVs.

Scene of a deadly car crash
The IIHS observed a constant decline in road deaths in America from the 1970s to the late 2000s. But this trend was reversed across the following decade.

The numbers also showed that in crashes that involve small cars, drivers were killed more than five times as often as drivers who were in larger vehicles. This translates to 15 occupant deaths per million RVY compared to 82 for small cars.

“Smaller vehicles offer less protection for the driver in crashes, and their lighter mass means that they take the brunt of collisions with larger vehicles,” said Joe Nolan, senior vice president of vehicle research for IIHS.

The IIHS also observed a constant decline in road deaths in America from the 1970s to the late 2000s. But this trend was reversed across the following decade.

For the 2011 model year vehicles alone, an average of 28 deaths per million RVY was recorded, while 2014 models had 30. For vehicles from the 2017 model year, which were the subject of the latest study, the number climbs to 36.

The IIHS study, however, does not intend to imply that interested car buyers should always go for the bigger vehicles. It merely represents the current state of American roads in the past three years.

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