Though vehicle crash fatality rates have been steadily creeping upward with more cars – and especially trucks – hitting the road in the post-recession years, today’s models aren’t scrimping on the safety features. As many as 10 airbags are spread around a new-vehicle’s cabin these days to provide maximum occupant protection in a collision, with a growing number of cars and trucks now offering advanced safety systems that can help drivers avoid getting into crashes in the first place.
But until perhaps all vehicles on the highway drive themselves, cars will still get into collisions, some due to weather conditions, others because of mechanical issues, but largely because of driver error. And while all vehicles are required to meet a set of complex federal safety standards and most cars get good grades in crash tests, as insurance loss statistics released by the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) illustrate, some vehicles inherently protect their occupants better than others in a crash.
Based on data compiled on vehicles from the 2014-2016 model years, the frequency of medical payment claims incurred in an accident generally follow the accepted wisdom, which means injury claims tend to be most frequent among the smallest and lightest cars. The laws of physics dictate that, all else being equal, a larger and heavier vehicle will inherently provide its occupants better protection in a collision than will a smaller and lighter model.
Four-door micro cars have the highest relative claim frequency among all models, according to the HLDI, with a score of 215, which is more than twice the industry average grade of 100; Minicars scored only slightly better at a frequency score of 174, with small four-door cars at 146 and midsize sedans at 138. Very large pickup trucks have the lowest frequency with a score of 45, followed by large luxury SUVs at 55.
With regard to specific models, sports cars, which are often driven for fewer miles and most often carry just a single passenger, take seven of the top 10 spots for the lowest personal injury claims frequency. The top five include the Porsche 911 with a claims frequency of 26, the Chevrolet Corvette Z06 (at 30), Porsche Boxster (31), Mercedes-Benz E-Class Wagon (33), and the Mercedes-Benz SL (38).
The models having the most frequent injury claims largely consist of some of the smallest rides on the road, and are those most often chosen by or for younger drivers because of their affordable sticker prices. The worst offender here is the compact Mitsubishi Lancer, which racks up a whopping claims frequency of 216. Forbes featured the 10 worst offenders in this regard, based on 2014-2016 models, in the accompanying slideshow.
Relative claim severities and overall losses, on the other hand, tended to increase along with vehicle size, though not uniformly. The HLDI says this may reflect the greater likelihood of multiple passengers and thus additional injured occupants in larger vehicles. Small luxury cars had the lowest relative claim severity rate at 81, while small sports cars had the highest at 161 (with 100 again being average).