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It’s no secret that modern American muscle cars appeal to fans with bold, brash promises of boulevard hero antics and smoky burnouts with little emphasis on safety. However, the latest data regarding fatal accidents among specific vehicle makes and models suggests that today’s horsepower-hungry muscle machines might be more dangerous than people think. So, just how dangerous are contemporary examples like the Dodge Challenger, Charger, and Ford Mustang?

Are muscle cars safe?

Modern muscle cars are much safer than the namesakes of yesteryear. For instance, seat belts didn’t become standard kit in the United States until around 1968. Today, the segment incorporates standard features like ABS, blind-spot warning, and emergency automatic braking. 

However, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) maintains that the average driver and other-driver death rates of these cars are disproportionate and alarming. “Three Dodge muscle cars with excessively high driver death rates also rank among the worst performers when it comes to other-driver deaths, suggesting these vehicles are driven in an aggressive manner,” the agency said of the vehicles. 

Which muscle cars are the most dangerous?

A gray Dodge Challenger GT shows off its stripes.
Dodge Challenger GT | Stellantis

The IIHS reports that the vehicles it identifies as “muscle cars” have six of the top spots among vehicles with the highest rate of driver deaths. Specifically, the Dodge Challenger earned the No. 1 spot, with an average of 154 deaths per million registered vehicles. 

Muscle car make and modelDeaths per million vehicles
Dodge Challenger154
Dodge Charger (HEMI)118
Chevrolet Camaro Convertible113
Chevrolet Camaro Coupe110
Ford Mustang Convertible97
Dodge Charger91

The Dodge Charger also had a high rate of driver deaths among muscle cars, although many purists today would argue that the Charger is more of a sports sedan. That said, the “HEMI” classification that the IIHS uses almost certainly refers to the model’s V8-powered trims, from the 5.7L V8 R/T trim to the supercharged Hellcat lineup. 

Unfortunately, muscle cars aren’t just responsible for fatalities within the vehicles; several of the performance models received top spots on the list of cars with “other-driver deaths,” meaning at least one fatality in another vehicle in an incident. 

Muscle car make and modelRate of other-driver deaths
Dodge Charger (HEMI)164
Dodge Charger105
Dodge Challenger91

The IIHS reports that the Dodge Charger and Challenger have three models on the list of vehicles that cause the most significant numbers of other-driver deaths. In fact, the HEMI-powered and V6-powered Chargers reside in the top 10 overall culprits, along with four models of RAM trucks. What’s particularly sobering? The V8-powered Chargers killed an average of 46 other drivers more than their own occupants.  

Which vehicles are safer than muscle cars?

A yellow Dodge Charger parks on a beach.
Dodge Charger | Stellantis

According to the latest data from the IIHS, luxury cars and SUVs are much safer than their muscle-bound counterparts. 

Muscle car make and modelDeaths per million vehicles
Lexus ES 3500
Mercedes-Benz E-Class0
Nissan Pathfinder0
Audi Q52

The data suggest that the BMW X3, the marque’s SUV middle ground between the larger X5 and subcompact, American-market X1, takes the No. 1 spot. However, all four top-spot vehicles in the study have zero deaths per million registered vehicles.


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