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Volvo 240 Safest, IIHS Says

April 16, 1991

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The midsized Volvo 240 station wagon is the safest car on the road, an insurance industry research group said Tuesday.

The Chevrolet Corvette had the highest death rate per 10,000 registered cars, the Insurance Institute for Highway safety said in a study that affirmed the long-standing conclusion of many researchers that larger cars are safer than smaller cars.

The institute checked the reported death rates for the 134 most popular 1984-1988 model cars on U.S. roads during the years 1985 through 1989.

Of the 14 cars registering the lowest death rates, it said five were large, seven midsized and only two small. Nine of the 13 cars with the highest death rates were small, four midsized and none large.

″These strong connections between car size and motor vehicle occupant deaths once again make the case against fuel economy requirements that would force the downsizing of future car models,″ said Brian O’Neil, the institute’s president.

Legislation is pending in Congress to require automakers to improve fuel efficiency over the next several years as a way of reducing the nation’s reliance on imported oil.

But O’Neil said, ″Improving fuel efficiency by making cars smaller would amount to trading lives for oil.″

The institute said that death rates vary not only by size but within car size and body style groups. For examples, the Saab 900 had the lowest death rate among small four-dar cars, 0.6 per 10,000 cars. The death rate for the four-door Chevrolet Sprint was seven times as great, 4.5 occupant deaths per 10,000 cars.

Large station wagons, large two-door cars and large luxury cars registered the lowest death rates. The highest death rates were recorded by midsized sports cars.

Driver age was also important in determining death rates. The institute said drivers under 30 tended to have higher death rates.

And it said that cars with high percentages of female drivers tended to have lower death rates than for cars largely driven by men.

But it said that while car size, driver age and gender can explain some differences in death rates among cars, they don’t explain them all.

The institute said that the Volkswagen Cabriolet-Rabbit convertible had a relatively low death rate, 1.3 per 10,000 cars, even though it is small and 71 percent of its drivers were under 30.

The institute noted that most models studied were not equipped with automatic seat belts or air bags.

″But all 1990 and later models of the same cars do have such restraints,″ it said. ″Death rates for the newer models equipped with air bags can be expected to be lower than the rates shown for corresponding 1984-1988 models.″

Five of the cars with the highest death rates were Chevrolets.

″GM long has known that larger, heavier vehicles fare better in a collision than smaller ones,″ said Jack Dinan, a spokesman for the automaker.

He said many Chevrolets on the list were involved in single-vehicle accidents ″while being driven by younger males.″

And he said air bags now are installed on the driver’s side of all of the cars listed except the discontinued four-door Sprint and the discontinued Pontiac Fierro.

The Corvette got the air bag in the 1990 model and that the other cars on the risk list received them in the 1991 model year.

He said there also have been a number of changes in the driveability and strength of the cars on the risk list that would enhance their safety.

According to the institute, these are the cars with the highest death rates, stated as occupant deaths per 10,000 cars.

The Chevrolet Corvette Coupe, 4.7; Chevrolet Sprint four-door, 4.5; Chevrolet Sprint two-door, 4.3; Chevrolet Camaro, 4.3; Ford Mustang, 4.3; Ford Mustang convertible, 4.0; Nissan 300ZX, 4.0; Yugo two-door, 3.6; Chevrolet Spectrum two-door, 3.5; Pontiac Fiero, 3.5; Hyundai Excel-Mitsubishi Precis two-door, 3.3; Pontiac Firebird, 3.2 and Ford Escort two-door, 3.1

The cars with the lowest death rates were:

The Volvo 240 station wagon, 0.5; Saab 900 four-door, 0.6; Volkswagen Vanagon, 0.6; Olds Cutlass Cruiser station wagon, 0.7; Pontiac Safari- Paisienne station wagon, 0.7; Volvo 740-760 four-door, 0.7; Mercury Grand Marquis station wagon, 0.8; Honda Accord two-door, 0.8; Audi 5000 four-door, 0.9; Lincoln Town Car, 0.9; Mercedes SDL-SEL series, 0.9 and the Toyota Cressida four-door, 0.9.

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