“We know from our vehicle ratings program that crash test performance has been getting steadily better," Mr. Zuby said. "These latest death rates provide new confirmation that real-world outcomes are improving, too.”
But death rates among SUVs and smaller-vehicle segments vary, with many SUVs posting the fewest deaths and smaller cars posting the most.
“With some exceptions, death rates tend to go down as size goes up,” the report said.
The IIHS compiled death rates per vehicle by taking fatality counts from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System and registration data from R.L. Polk & Co.
Nine vehicles, 2011 model year or equivalent earlier models, had driver death rates of zero from 2009 to 2012: the Audi A4 4WD, Honda Odyssey, Kia Sorento 2WD, Lexus RX 350 4WD, Mercedes-Benz GL-class 4WD, Subaru Legacy 4WD, Toyota Highlander hybrid 4WD, Toyota Sequoia 4WD and Volvo XC90 4WD.
“The list of models with the lowest death rates illustrates just how much vehicles have improved. Eight years ago, there were no models with driver death rates of zero,” the report said.