New data suggest that the biggest menaces on the road aren't
oversized SUVs, but tiny cars like the Kia Rio and Hyundai Accent.
Several small cars are among the 10 makes and models found to be
the most dangerous to other drivers on the road, but the data may
not be as disturbing to small-car owners as it initially
The new data come from
"Insurance losses by make and model,"
a new report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and
the Highway Loss Data Institute. The institutes analyzed claims
data for model years 2009 through 2011 to determine which cars are
involved in the most insurance claims.
Categories considered by the organizations include personal
injury protection (injury to drivers and their passengers), bodily
injury liability (injuries to other cars' drivers and their
passengers) and collisions. Models were ranked by how frequently
they were involved in such claims.
Sports car stats hide the truth
As one might expect, many of the cars with the lowest
rates of personal injury claims are large vehicles like the
Chevy Silverado and the Land Rover Range Rover, which
presumably provide good protection to drivers and
passengers in the event of a crash.
But less easily explained are the two cars with the
lowest rates of personal injury claims. Drivers of the
Porsche 911 are 68 percent less likely than average to have
a personal injury claim. Drivers of the Chevrolet Corvette
are 62 percent less likely.
Such midsized cars are comparatively smaller than the
hulking pickups and SUVs that populate the rest of the
list, so it's unlikely that they would provide even greater
protection in crashes. And it's also hard to believe that
people driving sports cars are more careful drivers than
the general population. If anything, you'd expect them to
drive faster than the average car owner.
Indeed, the presence of pricey sports cars at the top of
the "low injury claims" list seems to be yet another
statistical oddity owing to the unusual usage patterns of
"We measure claim counts over insured vehicle years,"
explains Matt Moore, vice president of the Highway Loss
Data Institute. "But if you think about trophy car like
Corvettes, they tend to be owned by people with multiple
vehicles, and they tend to be garaged more often."
So personal injury claims per vehicle are relatively low
for sports cars, but not because those cars are safer in a
crash or because their operators are safe drivers. Rather,
they simply spend a lot less time on the road. Sorry
speedsters, you don't really have a safer car going for
The Chevy Silverado 2500 and Jeep Grand Cherokee rank among
safest to their own drivers and passengers. (The vehicles with the
lowest level of PIP claims are the Porsche 911 2-door and Chevrolet
Corvette 2-door. The Porsche, for example, is 68 percent less
likely to have a PIP claim than the average vehicle. Isn't that
See sidebar at left
.) The rest of the top 10 also are larger cars.
By contrast, the Toyota Yaris, Suzuki SX4, Chevrolet Aveo and
other small or mini sized cars the bulk of the top 10 list of
vehicles with the most claims for personal injury claims.
So word to the wise: The bigger the car, the less likely you are
to get injured while driving it.
"The smaller the vehicle you're in, the more likely you are to
hit something larger than you," explains Matt Moore, vice president
of the Highway Loss Data Institute. "And if you do, you're more
likely to be injured."
More trouble with small cars
What's not easily explained, though, is that smaller cars (like
the Rio and Accent) likewise dominate the "bodily injury liability"
category. Seven of the 10 models with the highest likelihood of
causing injury to passengers in another vehicle are small or mini
So if the smaller car in a collision is more likely to get the
worst of things, why do the data suggest the opposite -- that
you're sometimes more likely to hurt someone when you're behind the
wheel of a little car?
One possibility is simply that people are using smaller cars
differently than they do larger ones. For instance, people may tend
to drive faster in small cars. Or, it may be the drivers
themselves: Small cars tend to be chosen by younger, inexperienced
drivers who will have high crash rates no matter what car they're
Moore suggests another possibility: "Bodily injury pays for
injuries caused to pedestrians as well as [people in] vehicles," he
notes. "The smaller the car is, the more likely the vehicle is
owned and operated in an urban area."
And in urban areas, you're more likely to be dealing with
pedestrians. Compare car insurance rates for urban and rural areas,
and you'll likely see this increased danger reflected in the
premiums (among other urban risk factors).
One thing is for sure: The cars most likely to do damage to
someone else's vehicle or property tend to be larger pickups and
SUVs, as you might expect. They have the highest levels of property
damage liability claims. The top offenders are the Dodge Ram,
Chevrolet Tahoe and Toyota Tundra.
The worst cars for Personal Injury Protection
2009-2011 models with the highest claim frequencies for
personal injury protection:
Toyota Yaris, mini four-door car: 201
Suzuki SX4, small four-door car: 187
Chevrolet Aveo, mini four-door car: 183
Mitsubishi Galant, midsize four-door car: 179
Kia Rio Mini, four-door car: 175
Hyundai Accent, mini four-door car: 173
Nissan Versa, small four-door car: 173
Dodge Avenger, midsize four-door car: 167
Nissan Sentra, small four-door car: 162
Chevrolet Aveo, mini station wagons/minivan: 157