(This story has been updated to include the list of the nine safest vehicles, and additional comments by IIHS.)
The highway death toll has been plunging rapidly in recent years, and safety experts are crediting a number of factors, including improved roadways and a crackdown on drunk driving. But a new study puts the spotlight on vehicle design and improved technology for both preventing crashes and keeping motorists alive when they do occur.
A record total of nine models sold during the 2011 model-year have had a death rate of zero, meaning no one was killed in a crash involving those vehicles during the period studied by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety. Significantly, these are not ultra-exotic products. They include mainstream models like the Honda Odyssey minivan and Subaru Legacy sedan, as well as the big Mercedes-Benz GL SUV. (See the complete list, below.)
“We know from our vehicle ratings program that crash test performance has been getting steadily better. These latest death rates provide new confirmation that real-world outcomes are improving, too,” said IIHS vice president and chief research officer David Zuby.