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American muscle cars, large pickups, are most deadly vehicles on road, insurance institute finds

Tyler Scott
Michigan Radio
Speeding and aggressive driving is likely responsible for the high rate of driver deaths in muscle cars, according to new IIHS research.

American muscle cars like the Ford Mustang, Chevy Camaro, and Dodge Challenger and Charger are among the deadliest on the road — both for their own drivers and for people in other vehicles.

That's according to the latest analysis from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The latest rates are based on fatalities that occurred from 2018 to 2021 for vehicles from the 2020 model year, as well as earlier models with the same designs and features.

The group's Chuck Farmer says driver behavior is a big reason the muscle cars are so deadly. He said ever since the pandemic, drivers have been speeding more and being more aggressive on the road. 

"You could even call it a new epidemic of bad driving behavior since the pandemic," said Farmer.

And while Farmer credited automakers for increasing safety features in newer models, he also blamed them for the language they use to market muscle cars which emphasizes their speed and horsepower.

"The automakers have complete control of their marketing, and it's not just the muscle cars that are marketed as being fast," he said. "We've seen that with a lot of other cars as well. That, I think, I'd like to see stopped. There's just no reason for that. It's not responsible."

Farmer said small and mini cars have some of the highest death rates for drivers, since they are at such a disadvantage in collisions with other vehicles on the road. Many SUVs and minivans have some of the lowest death rates for drivers.

The IIHS research also shows that large pickups are often as deadly, or deadlier, for drivers in other vehicles as muscle cars.

The Ram 3500 Crew Cab long bed 4WD ranked worst for rate of other vehicle driver deaths in the time period studied.

Farmer said large pickups are work trucks, and people should not be using them primarily for commuting, because they kill so many other drivers.

The Mitsubishi Mirage hatchback minicar ranked worst for the rate of driver deaths.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Radio. She began her career at Michigan Radio as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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