Study identifies small used cars as the most deadly to drive

When it comes to safety on the road, a new study confirms the notion that a bigger vehicle is better.

The study, conducted by automotive research firm and car search engine, analyzed fatal accident reports from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration involving vehicles made between the 2013 and 2017 model years.

It combined that information with more than 25 million used cars from the same model years in its database to determine the vehicles that are most often involved in deadly accidents.

The study found that there are 14 models of cars that are at least two times as likely as the average vehicle to be involved in a fatal accident. Small cars and sports cars tied on the list with six vehicles each.

Ranking the vehicles with the most occupant fatalities per billion miles driven, the Mitsubishi Mirage topped the list at 10.8. The Chevrolet Corvette was ranked second at 9.8, followed by the Honda Fit (7.7), Kia Forte (7.4) and Chevrolet Spark (7.2).

For comparison, the study said the average rating for all vehicles is 2.6.

In 2014, the Mitsubishi Mirage was rated "poor" on the driver's side small overlap crash test by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which tests what happens when the vehicle's front corner collides with another car or object.

After engineering updates aimed at addressing the deficiency, the rating was improved to "Marginal" in 2017, Fox News reported.

"The Mitsubishi Mirage, like all Mitsubishi vehicles, meets or exceeds all Federal crash standards. The vehicle scored a solid four-star rating in the NHTSA's New Car Assessment Program, and a "good" rating on all but one Insurance Institute for Highway Safety test," a Mitsubishi spokesman told Fox News.

"That said, regardless of safety ratings, no two crashes are the same, and the results of every single crash will be different. It must be remembered that in any vehicle-to-vehicle crash, size matters -- smaller vehicles must work harder than larger vehicles to protect their occupants, and the Mirage meets or exceeds all safety standards in doing that."

The study suggests that a "lack of safety features" on small cars would be the reason so many rank on the list.

"The Chevrolet Spark and the Honda Fit are the only subcompacts in the model years examined that include active safety features beyond rearview cameras on some trims," said Ly.

The six sports cars that made the list of vehicles with the highest fatal accident rates include the second-ranked Chevrolet Corvette, as well as the Subaru BRZ (6.9), Nissan 370Z (6.2), Dodge Challenger (5.8), Chevrolet Camaro (5.5) and Hyundai-Veloster Turbo (5.2).

"Sports cars are the vehicle segment with the highest fatal accident rate of 4.6 cars per billion vehicle miles," said iSeeCars CEO Phong Ly in a press release. "They're designed to prioritize speed and acceleration, so it is perhaps no surprise that their accidents result in a high number of fatalities."

As far as vehicle categories, subcompact cars were found to have a fatal accident rate of 4.5 cars per billion vehicle miles, followed by compact (3.8), midsize (3.3) and large (2.6).

SUVs had the lowest average fatality rate at 1.7, while light-duty pickup trucks were rated at 2.3 on average.

Conventional wisdom suggests that newer vehicles equipped with modern features are inherently safer than their older counterparts, which was confirmed in data released last year by the NHTSA.

Read the full report here.

This story was reported from Los Angeles.