Study: Nine 2011 Vehicles Had Zero Driver Deaths

By Brenda Flanagan

“It’s wonderful, this is my third one and easy to drive, comfortable, maneuverable. I love it,” said Mary Ann DiGirolamo.

DiGirolamo drives a Lexus RX350. It’s in rare company — one of only nine vehicles from model year 2011 when the driver death rate was precisely zero, according to a new study.

“Let’s keep it that way!” she said.

DiGirolamo’s Lexus actually helps her avoid accidents with a new upgrade — a flashing indicator on her side-view mirror.

“When there’s a car passing me, this little yellow light comes on. It also keeps you alert because there’s a light that catches your eyes. I really like the car,” she said.

If nine models with zero driver deaths sounds low, it’s actually a record — a “huge improvement,” according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety — and it confirms crash-test safety data.

Just eight years ago, no vehicles could claim zero driver death rates. Here’s the Institute’s list for 2011 — the Audi A4, Honda Odyssey, Kia Sorrento, Lexus RX350, Mercedes Benz GL, Subaru Legacy, Toyota Highlander Hybrid and Sequoia and the Volvo XC90. It includes no American-made vehicles.

“Car safety is advancing rapidly. Consumers have more vehicles to choose from that earn the Institute’s top safety awards,” said Insurance Institute for Highway Safety President Adrian Lund.

What distinguishes the list of “zero death” models? Well, they tend to be larger vehicles, like the Toyota Sequoia. And many of them sport some very high-tech gadgetry.

The latest models feature avoidance systems that signal a potential impending crash.

“But if the driver doesn’t respond, then the brakes are applied automatically. These features act as a second set of eyes for the driver and they’re preventing collisions,” said Lund.

The Institute’s study also includes vehicles with highest driver death rates — the Kia Rio leads with 149. Kia had no comment. The list includes a Ford, three Chevrolet vehicles, two Hyundais, two Nissans and the Honda Civic. Keri Patton drives a much older Civic model.

“It’s my college car, it’s my tote around the city car, it’s my get myself back and forth from workplaces and stuff. Me and my husband have a Subaru and that’s our safety pick,” she said.

DiGirolamo’s sticking with her Lexus, says a tree fell on them a couple years ago while they were driving it.

“Totaled the car. We were all fine! Four people in the car looking at each other going, ‘Are you OK? Yeah, we were fine,” she said.