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Most Unsafe Cars in Canada

Most Unsafe Cars in Canada

Driving can be dangerous business in Canada. According to Transport Canada, over 1,700 people lost their lives and nearly 10,000 were seriously injured in motor vehicle collisions across the country in 2021. With car accidents being one of the leading causes of unintentional injury and death, it’s crucial for drivers to understand how to stay safe on the road.


Not all vehicles provide the same level of protection in the event of a crash. By researching crash test ratings, common issues, and key safety features, drivers can make informed choices to better protect themselves. Understanding the risks and driving responsibly are also critical steps.


This article will dive into the most unsafe car models in Canada and what causes them to score poorly in safety assessments. We’ll also explore higher-risk driving behaviors and other factors that can increase the chances of a serious or fatal collision. With this information, Canadian drivers can make changes to prevent becoming a statistic.

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Crash Test Ratings

Crash tests conducted by organizations like the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) provide important data on how vehicles will protect occupants in a collision. IIHS conducts front, side, rear and rollover crash tests. It also evaluates headlights and collision avoidance systems. NHTSA runs frontal, side barrier and side pole tests along with rollover resistance ratings.

These tests measure the structural integrity of the vehicle, how well safety belts and airbags protect, and the forces placed on dummies inside. While no car can prevent all injuries, those with top ratings are proven to hold up better in crashes and have technology to avoid accidents in the first place.

Unfortunately, some models like the Ford Fiesta, Hyundai Accent and Yugo have repeatedly earned poor marks on IIHS and NHTSA tests. Their lightweight bodies provide inadequate protection, with high intrusion into the cabin and excessive forces on occupants. These vehicles should be avoided by drivers concerned about safety.

 

Vehicle Size and Weight

When it comes to vehicle safety, size and weight make a big difference. Physics explains why larger, heavier vehicles generally protect occupants better in collisions. The greater mass absorbs more of the impact force in a crash. Occupants in larger vehicles also fare better due to ride height and being positioned higher above the point of impact.

In a collision between a larger vehicle like an SUV and a smaller car, the SUV’s tall front end will override the lower car’s hood and strike the occupant compartment directly. This results in far greater intrusion into the smaller vehicle and elevated risk of injury or death for those occupants.

Research by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has consistently shown the benefits of vehicle size and weight. In studies of collisions between vehicles of varying sizes, death rates for drivers of small cars were considerably higher compared to those in larger cars, SUVs, and trucks. Vehicle weight is a key factor, but increased ride height also plays a role.

The principles of physics make it very difficult for small, lightweight vehicles to protect occupants as effectively as larger, heavier models in serious crashes. While no vehicle can guarantee safety, choosing a heavier model with ample ride height does confer important advantages.

 

Specific Unsafe Models

Certain models of vehicles have repeatedly performed poorly in crash tests and have concerning structural issues that compromise safety. Three vehicles that consistently rank as some of the least safe on Canadian roads are the Ford Fiesta, Hyundai Accent, and Yugo GV.

 

Ford Fiesta

The Ford Fiesta is a subcompact car that has fared very poorly in IIHS small overlap front crash tests, which simulate a front corner collision with another vehicle or object like a tree or pole. The Fiesta’s structure was rated “Poor” for occupant protection, with the structure crumpling and maximum intrusion measured at the lower door hinge pillar and instrument panel.

The side curtain airbag also failed to deploy properly. The dummy’s head hit the front airbag and the side curtain airbag did not prevent contact between the dummy’s head and the intruding structure. These issues present a high risk of severe head and chest injuries for real world drivers.

 

Hyundai Accent

The Hyundai Accent is another subcompact car that has struggled in IIHS testing. The 2012-2017 models were rated “Poor” in the small overlap front crash test, with high forces measured on the dummy’s chest from contacting the steering wheel and instrument panel. The side curtain airbag also failed to provide sufficient forward coverage.

The Accent’s structure was rated “Marginal” for its ability to maintain survival space. The occupant compartment was not well maintained, with maximum intrusion measured at the lower door hinge pillar and instrument panel. The car’s poor structure increases injury risks.

 

Yugo GV

The low-cost Yugo GV produced by a former Yugoslavian manufacturer in the 1980s is often considered one of the most unsafe vehicles ever sold in North America. The tiny two-door hatchback lacked basic safety features like collapsible steering columns and side impact protection.

The carburetor and emissions system did not meet North American standards either. With a lightweight structure and puny 70-horsepower engine, the Yugo offered almost no protection in crashes. Few GVs remain on the road today, but they serve as a stark example of an automotive safety failure.

 

Driver Behavior and Risk Factors

One of the most significant factors affecting the safety of any driver is their own behavior behind the wheel. Certain dangerous driving habits dramatically increase the likelihood of being involved in a severe or fatal collision.

Excessive speeding is a major predictor of unsafe vehicle crashes. Driving above posted speed limits reduces a driver’s ability to react in time to avoid potential hazards. Higher speeds also increase the force of impact in a collision, leading to more severe injuries. According to the National Safety Council, young male drivers between 15-24 years old are the demographic most likely to engage in speeding and aggressive driving.

Driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs is another significant risk factor. An impaired driver’s awareness, judgment and reaction times are compromised, making them unable to respond appropriately to avoid accidents. Data shows that impaired driving continues to be a factor in nearly one-third of all traffic fatalities in Canada.

Driving at night also carries increased risks compared to daytime hours. Reduced visibility, glare from headlights, and fatigue combine to make night driving more dangerous. Statistics indicate over half of all fatal crashes occur between 6pm and 6am, even though there is less traffic at night.

Overall, data shows that young male drivers, especially those under 25, have a disproportionately higher rate of collisions and traffic violations. Lack of experience and a tendency toward risk-taking behaviors like speeding, distracted driving and impaired driving all contribute to the over-representation of this group in accident statistics.

 

Auto Theft Hazards

In recent years, Canada has seen a spike in auto thefts targeting certain popular models like the Honda CR-V and various Kia vehicles. This epidemic of car theft has hit cities across the country, but especially Toronto, which some now call a “candy store” for car thieves.

Groups of young thieves, dubbed “Kia Boys,” have figured out how to steal certain Kia and Hyundai models in seconds by exploiting a design flaw in the ignition system. Videos of these thefts then spread on social media platforms like TikTok, encouraging copycats and furthering the trend.

The Honda CR-V has also become a prime target, with tens of thousands stolen in recent years. Organized crime rings often ship the stolen CR-Vs overseas where they can fetch a high price.

Aside from the huge financial losses and inconvenience caused by these thefts, a major risk is the reckless manner in which stolen cars are often driven. Car thieves will speed, run lights, drive drunk, and otherwise drive dangerously in the vehicles they steal. This poses a significant public safety hazard, especially in dense urban areas.

Some police departments have formed special task forces to try to combat the spike in auto thefts. But many feel carmakers need to take more responsibility as well, by improving anti-theft technology and ignition security in vulnerable models.

 

Vehicle Recalls

Vehicle recalls occur when an automaker or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration determines that a model poses a safety risk due to defects or flaws. Recalls aim to fix issues by repairing the vehicles free of charge. It’s critical that consumers pay attention to recall notices and bring their car in promptly. Ignoring a recall can have dangerous consequences.

One of the largest and most concerning recalls in recent years involves Hyundai and Kia models. Since 2015, over 7 million Hyundai and Kia vehicles have been recalled due to engine fire risks. The recalls stem from manufacturing defects that can allow oil to leak onto hot engine parts, causing engine fires. So far, the recalls have been linked to over 200 fires and 20 injuries.

The Hyundai and Kia fire risk recalls apply to a range of models from 2011-2021. Impacted models include the Hyundai Sonata, Santa Fe, and Elantra. Kia models involved include the Optima, Sorento, and Soul. Owners of these vehicles should immediately check if their VIN is included in the recalls. If so, they should stop driving their car and schedule a repair appointment right away.

Responding to recall notices is always important. But with recalls involving proven fire risks, it becomes absolutely crucial. An engine fire can total a vehicle, cause injuries, and even lead to fatalities in severe cases. By promptly bringing in vehicles for recall repairs, owners can correct flaws before a fire occurs.

 

Lack of Maintenance

Failing to properly maintain your vehicle can lead to equipment failures that compromise safety. Things like worn out brakes, defective tires, broken headlights and bald wipers can all increase the chances of an accident. It’s essential that drivers follow the recommended maintenance schedule in their owner’s manual, which specifies when fluid changes, belt replacements, brake inspections and other routine servicing should occur. Skipping scheduled maintenance intervals often leads to accelerated wear and tear. For example, old engine oil can cause premature engine failure, worn tires are more prone to blowouts and brake pads that are not replaced on time will degrade braking performance.

Being vigilant about repairs is also crucial. Ignoring that strange engine noise, squeaky brake or flickering check engine light can allow small problems to escalate into major repair issues. It’s important to have your car inspected by a professional technician as soon as any unusual symptoms appear. Catching and fixing problems early is much less costly than waiting until you have a breakdown or accident. With regular maintenance and prompt repairs, you can keep your vehicle in optimal working order and reduce the safety risks from equipment failures on the road.

 

Choosing Safer Vehicles

When purchasing a new or used vehicle, one of the most important considerations should be safety. Choosing a car with good crash test ratings can greatly reduce your risk of injury or death in an accident.

Look for vehicles that have received high marks in testing conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Both organizations conduct frontal, side, rollover and rear crash tests and evaluate how well a vehicle protects occupants.

Vehicles that earn the IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK or TOP SAFETY PICK+ awards have achieved top ratings in all tests. The NHTSA 5-Star Safety Ratings system also identifies vehicles with the best crashworthiness and crash avoidance features.

In addition to crash test performance, consider choosing a vehicle with advanced safety features. Systems like automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert can help prevent accidents in the first place.

Newer safety technologies such as drowsiness alerts, pedestrian detection and automatic high beam headlights further improve accident avoidance. While no car can guarantee your safety, choosing one with high crash test ratings and advanced safety features can greatly reduce risk.

 

Regular Inspections

One of the best ways to improve your vehicle’s safety is to inspect it regularly and fix any issues promptly. This allows you to identify potential problems before they lead to equipment failures or breakdowns. For example, worn brake pads or damaged tires can greatly reduce your ability to stop safely. Engine issues like oil leaks or loose belts can also leave you stranded or cause a crash.

Follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule in your owner’s manual. This will outline when to change fluids, replace parts, and inspect key components. Don’t ignore strange noises, smells, or warning lights – have a mechanic diagnose them right away. Look over the exterior and interior yourself regularly too – are headlights aimed properly? Any loose trim or objects that could turn into projectiles?

While routine maintenance adds cost, not keeping up with it is a false economy. The price of major repairs or accidents resulting from ignored issues is far higher. Protect yourself and your passengers by staying vigilant about vehicle upkeep. Don’t delay recommended service – fixing problems promptly improves safety.

 

Defensive Driving

One of the best ways drivers can protect themselves on the road is by practicing defensive driving techniques. This involves being aware of your surroundings, anticipating potential hazards, and taking steps to avoid accidents.

Obeying speed limits is a key aspect of defensive driving. Excessive speed gives you less time to react and extends your stopping distance. It also increases the force of impact in a crash. By following posted limits, you give yourself the time and space needed to avoid collisions.

Allowing a safe following distance from the vehicle in front of you is another critical defensive driving behavior. Tailgating greatly raises the chances of rear-end crashes, which are very common. Give yourself 2-3 seconds of following distance for regular conditions. More space is needed in poor weather.

Scanning far ahead, being aware of blind spots, signaling properly, and avoiding distractions like phones also enable defensive drivers to anticipate and adapt to changing conditions. Driving isn’t just about your own vehicle – it requires paying attention to the entire roadway environment.

Defensive techniques give you the tools to avoid becoming a hazard to yourself and others. Drivers should get in the habit of driving defensively to enhance their safety every time they get behind the wheel.

 

Most Dangerous Cities For Car Accidents in Canada

Certain cities in Canada see more car accidents than others, based on factors like traffic congestion and driver behaviors. According to recent data from Transport Canada, some of the most collision-prone cities include:

 

  • Toronto – As Canada’s largest city, Toronto sees high volumes of traffic and frequent accidents. The city averages over 50,000 collisions per year.
  • Montreal – With its narrow streets and abundance of cyclists and pedestrians, Montreal is prone to fender benders and more serious crashes. Nearly 40,000 collisions occur annually.
  • Vancouver – Large populations of young drivers contribute to Vancouver’s high rate of collisions. Over 20,000 crashes happen each year.
  • Calgary – Major highways like Deerfoot Trail and winter driving conditions lead to pile-ups and single-vehicle crashes in Calgary.
  • Edmonton – Busy commuter corridors result in rear-end collisions and intersection crashes in Alberta’s capital.

 

These urban centers see high injury and fatality rates from car accidents compared to less populated cities. Drivers in major metro areas need to be especially cautious due to the increased risks.

 

Times of Day

One of the major factors that contributes to unsafe driving conditions is the time of day. Statistics show that the most dangerous times to be on the road are at night. This is due to a variety of reasons:

 

Firstly, visibility is significantly decreased after sunset. Without adequate lighting, drivers have reduced ability to see obstacles, pedestrians, animals, and other vehicles on the road. This makes night driving much more hazardous.

Secondly, fatigue starts setting in late at night. Driving when tired leads to slowed reaction times, reduced alertness, and impaired judgment. The combination of darkness and fatigue is responsible for many late night accidents.

Thirdly, more impaired drivers get on the roads at night. After dark, there is an increase in intoxicated drivers coming home from bars, parties, or other activities. Drunk drivers have delayed reactions and make poor decisions, putting everyone at risk.

Fourthly, traffic volumes tend to be lower at night. This leads some drivers to speed excessively and let their guard down. Lower visibility mixed with higher speeds is a recipe for catastrophe.

 

For all these reasons, driving at night requires extra precautions. Being alert, reducing speed, and using high beams when appropriate can help offset some of the elevated risks after dark.

 

Age and Gender Factors

Statistics show that young male drivers are at the highest risk for accidents and unsafe driving behaviors. Teenage boys and young men under 25 are involved in car crashes at much higher rates than other demographic groups. According to data from Transport Canada, drivers aged 16-19 are nearly 3 times more likely to be involved in deadly collisions than drivers aged 25-49. The risk is highest for young men, who account for the majority of collisions for teenage drivers.

There are several reasons young male drivers are more prone to accidents. Lack of experience behind the wheel contributes to poor hazard perception and response times. Overconfidence leads to speeding, distracted driving, and other dangerous behaviors. Impulsiveness and thrill-seeking in young men also come into play. Rates of drunk driving are higher among young male drivers as well. These factors combine to make teenage boys and young men the riskiest group on the road.

 

Conclusion: Key Steps for Drivers to Improve Safety

In summary, while no vehicle can guarantee complete safety, drivers have several options to help protect themselves on the road. Choosing a car with good crash test ratings and safety features is a smart first step. Regular maintenance and inspection for issues can prevent equipment failures that compromise control. Driving defensively – obeying speed limits, avoiding distractions, and watching for hazards – reduces risk. Drivers should also be aware of factors like time of day, weather, and personal traits that may impact accident likelihood.

Vehicle safety ultimately depends on a combination of engineering, consumer choices, and individual behavior. By understanding the risks and taking proactive steps, drivers can significantly increase their chances of avoiding a collision. While manufacturers work to design safer cars, it is up to each person to drive responsibly. Staying alert and focused, following traffic laws, and buckling up on every trip are the most effective ways to arrive safely at your destination.

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Questions About Unsafe Cars in Canada

The most unsafe car model in Canada is the 2014-2019 Ford Fiesta. According to crash test data, the Fiesta performs very poorly in front overlap crashes due to issues with structure integrity. This can lead to an increased risk of injury for the driver and passengers.

Smaller, lighter vehicles provide less protection for occupants in crashes because the force of impact is absorbed over a smaller area. Larger vehicles like SUVs and trucks have more mass to absorb crash energy before it reaches the occupants. Additionally, larger vehicles “override” smaller cars in crashes due to height differences, further increasing injury risks.

Data analysis shows that Toronto has the highest rate of car accidents among major Canadian cities. Factors contributing to Toronto’s high accident rate include high population density, heavy traffic congestion, poor weather conditions in winter, and a recent surge in auto thefts that have led to more reckless driving.

According to recent statistics, auto theft in Canada causes approximately $1 billion in financial damage per year. This figure factors in costs from stolen vehicles themselves, property damage from thefts and collisions, insurance claims administration, and resources spent on law enforcement efforts to combat the issue.

In recent years, the Honda CR-V has become one of the most frequently stolen vehicles in Canada due to the popularity of a social media trend that demonstrates how to easily steal certain Honda models with just a USB cable. The combination of accessible theft tutorials online and strong demand for CR-V parts has led to a spike in CR-V thefts.

Many recent Hyundai and Kia vehicle thefts have been linked to lack of an engine immobilizer, an anti-theft technology that makes it more difficult to start the car without the proper key or fob. Newer Hyundai and Kia models have engine immobilizers, but earlier models did not have this feature, allowing thieves to force-start certain vehicles more easily.

Yes, large trucks and SUVs are shown to be more hazardous for occupants of smaller cars in the event of collisions due to height and weight differences. The high front profile of trucks and SUVs means they tend to override smaller vehicles, and their greater mass creates more violent crash forces that compromise the safety of smaller vehicles’ occupant compartments.

Statistics show a significantly higher rate of fatal crashes at night compared to daytime hours. Key reasons for this include decreased visibility, driver fatigue leading to slow reaction times, and higher rates of impaired driving during nighttime hours. These factors combine to make night driving much riskier overall.

Data indicates that young drivers between ages 15-20 and 21-24 have the highest rates of involvement in fatal crashes where speeding is a factor. The lack of experience and tendency toward risk-taking behavior in these age cohorts contribute to more occurrences of young drivers traveling at unsafe speeds and losing control.

Experts have raised concerns about the ultra-hard steel exterior of the Cybertruck posing dangers to occupants of smaller vehicles in collisions. With a heavier-than-average curb weight for its class and angular, rigid body lines, the Cybertruck could heighten risks for those in smaller cars or pedestrians in the event of an accident.

To enhance pedestrian safety, new vehicles are now equipped with collision avoidance features that can automatically brake or send alerts if they detect hazards or pedestrians in the path of the vehicle. These innovations help drivers react more quickly and mitigate accident severity.

In 2023, the province of Ontario launched a 2-year photo radar pilot program to crack down on speeding and dangerous driving. Photo radar uses camera technology to capture images of vehicles traveling over posted speed limits, enabling authorities to ticket offenders by mail afterwards as a supplemental speed enforcement tool.

Ridesharing services have added more vehicles to the roads in busy metro areas, increased congestion, and led to rises in accident rates due to distracted driving behaviors combined with additional cars navigating dense urban traffic. Cities like Toronto have seen upticks in collisions after the introduction of rideshares.

Traffic camera analysis indicates they are highly effective at improving public safety and reducing accidents in enforced areas. Studies show cities utilizing traffic cameras see substantial declines in vehicle collisions, red light infractions, and speed violations. Their presence modifies driver behavior, leading to long-term improvements.

Vehicle safety innovations to combat drowsy driving include driver monitoring systems that use infrared cameras and sensors to watch for indicators of fatigue like eyelid closure, disconnected gaze, and head nodding. These systems provide alerts to wake drivers and encourage them to stop and rest when needed.

Inclement weather heightens risks on the roads in multiple ways. Rain, snow, and ice reduce traction and visibility for drivers, while temperature extremes can create slick spots or lead to hydroplaning. Changing conditions require drivers to reduce speeds appropriate to maintaining control, which does not always happen.

Studies analyzing speed humps and bumps demonstrate they reliably achieve speed reductions up to 20 km/h or higher when vehicles traverse these vertical deflections. This speed controlling effect also produces substantial decreases in collision rates and accident severity for areas where speed humps are implemented.

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