Anyone who has regularly driven around Chicago over the past decade or more is likely to agree that vehicles are getting bigger. SUVs and pick-up trucks dominate the streetscape more than ever before. Experts point to several reasons why bigger, longer, taller, heavier vehicles have grown so popular here and across the nation, citing the historic low cost of gasoline; design improvements in large vehicles that make them more attractive; revved up specs that give many large vehicles better acceleration and improved handling; and last, but not least, safety concerns.

More than feelings

Drivers feel safer sitting up high and surrounded by thousands of pounds of metal than they do lower to the ground in relatively light cars. The results of a three-year study show that drivers’ feelings of safety are more than psychological: the fatality rates in motor vehicle crashes for those riding in larger SUVs, pickup trucks and minivans are substantially lower than for those who are in small cars and minicars.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) say the very lowest vehicle fatality rates are found in the very biggest passenger vehicles around: luxury SUVs.

The seven vehicles that registered statistically zero fatalities in the IIHS study:

  • Yukon XL (SUV)
  • Infiniti QX60 (crossover)
  • Land Rover Range Rover Evoque (SUV)
  • Lexus NX 200t (crossover)
  • Mercedes-Benz C-Class (car)
  • Porsche Cayenne (SUV)
  • Volkswagen Golf (small car)

That last entry jumps out as the lone small-car exception to the fatality rate trend, the IIHS said. It should be noted that the study’s data is from 2015 to 2018, covering the 2014 to 2017 model years.

Rates by vehicle type

The group listed these fatality rates for different vehicle types (the rates are for fatalities per million registered vehicle years):

  • 48: cars
  • 29: pickups
  • 25: SUVs
  • 22: minivans

The average fatality rate for all vehicles: 36. The highest death rate among all vehicles, according to the study, is found in the Ford Fiesta, with 141.

Other high rates are in the following cars:

  • 116: Hyundai Accent
  • 98: Chevrolet Sonic
  • 95: Nissan Versa Note
  • 95: Fiat 500

No matter which kind of vehicle you drive around Chicago, please do so by observing speed limits and traffic signals and with the knowledge that caution is the best protection of all against auto accidents, injuries and fatal crashes.