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IIHS reports falling driver fatality rates

The risk of death in a motor vehicle accident is significantly lower for drivers of late-model vehicles, according to the results of a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The IIHS attributes much of the lessened fatality risk to improvements in vehicle design. Among vehicles from the 2011 model year, nine have driver fatality rates of zero. From this study, New York drivers may be able to gain insight into how technology is making cars safer.

Researchers found that the addition of safety features and improved vehicle structural designs were behind the lessening risk of fatality during the period from 1993 to 2006. These same factors continued to impact driver death rates thereafter although researchers were forced to adjust their conclusions to account for other factors, such as the weakened recession economy. According to IIHS estimates, there were 7,700 fewer driver fatalities in 2012 than there would have been if vehicles had not changed since 1985.

Among the 2011 models with driver fatality rates of zero were the Audi A4 4WD, the Honda Odyssey, the two-wheel-drive Kia Sorento and the Subaru Legacy 4WD. Six of the nine models that have driver fatality rates of zero are SUVs. The Audi A4 is a luxury car, the Honda Odyssey is a minivan, and the Subaru Legacy is a four-door car. Factors like increased enforcement of seat belt laws and increased use of seat belts, as well as lowered speed limits, may have also contributed to decreasing fatality rates on American roadways.

The gap between the safest and riskiest vehicles remains wide with "mini" models and small vehicles having the highest rates of driver fatality. Individuals who have been injured in motor vehicle accidents may be entitled to recover for lost wages, pain and suffering, medical expenses or other damages. An attorney with experience in personal injury law might help by identifying potential sources of recovery or by negotiating settlement with at-fault drivers or their insurers.

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