10 Most Dangerous Cars of All Time

Driving is both mundane and incredibly risky. It's something many of us do every day and thus take for granted — at the same time, almost everyone knows someone who has died in a car accident. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 15,100 people died in collision accidents with other motor vehicles in 2008, the lowest total in decades. Fortunately, improved safety measures have saved countless lives through the years, but only after we've driven and dodged some horribly constructed vehicles. These are among the most dangerous to have seen the roadway.

  1. Chevrolet Corvette (1953-present)

    The size of a vehicle, as you'll notice from perusing this list, has a lot to do with whether or not it's safe. In the case of the Corvette, it's a combination of size and speed — nobody buys one for slow Sunday drives along the countryside. In 1990, for example, a study showed that 5.2 drivers and passengers died in wrecks for every 10,000 1985-87 Corvettes registered in the United States. The death rates for other sports cars, such as the Chevy Camaro and Ford Mustang, have also been among the worst in recent decades.

  2. Chevrolet Corvair (1960-1969)

    Designed as the popularity of compact cars — such as the Volkswagen Beetle — was growing, the Corvair was an affordable, economical option for everyday American drivers. However, sales fell dramatically during the mid-'60s when Ralph Nader wrote Unsafe at Any Speed, which exposed the car's faulty swing-axle suspension and lack of a front stabilizer bar, a cost-cutting move by Chevy. The book prompted the auto industry, for the most part, to take safety more seriously.

  3. Ford Pinto (1971-1980)

    Ford clearly didn't learn from their competitors' mistakes, as the manufacturer sought to save a few bucks just a few years later by foolishly placing the Pinto's fuel tank near the rear panel without a reinforcing structure, making the tank vulnerable to being punctured in rear-end collisions. As a result of the problem, Ford was forced to pay $127 million after a woman was killed and her son badly burned in an accident. The ordeal actually brought forth prosecution for reckless homicide.

  4. Audi 5000 (1982-1991)

    Right or wrong, "sudden unintended acceleration," an issue recently faced by Toyota, is synonymous with the 5000. Infamously, 60 Minutes aired a feature in which a 5000 was shown suddenly accelerating as the brake pedal was pressed, a sequence of events that were intentionally staged. Sales subsequently plummeted, forcing Audi to start anew by changing the name of the car to 100. Of course, Audi wasn't the victim in this case, which was evidenced by the fact that it responded to the accusations by increasing the distance between the accelerator and brake pedals, and installing a device forcing the driver to tap the brake pedal before shifting out of park.

  5. Pontiac Fiero (1984-1988)

    Pontiac's foray into mid-engine sports car production was less than stellar. The Fiero, though somewhat eye-catching at the time, had a poor reputation due to its unreliability and safety concerns, most notably drawing the ire of numerous consumers who dealt with engine fires. The issue almost entirely occurred in models with 2.5L engines, which allowed oil to leak onto engine parts after the connecting rod broke. Safety recalls were issued to remedy the problem, but it couldn't save the reputation of the flashy two-seater.

  6. Ford Bronco II (1984-1990)

    The successful almost two-decade run for the Bronco brought forth the idea of the Bronco II, a compact SUV featuring similar components to the Ranger. A precursor to the Explorer, the Bronco II was plagued with rollover issues caused by a design flaw in the suspension — a 1992 study found that 97% of Bronco II crash deaths resulted from rollovers. The vehicle was widely panned for its poor safety record during the late '80s, contributing to the public's wariness of SUVs. Today, several SUVs are routinely ranked among the safest vehicles on the road.

  7. Suzuki Samurai (1986-1995)

    Suzuki's rugged reputation was built with the Jimny, which evolved into the Samurai almost two decades after the vehicle debuted. Although it was an effective off-road vehicle, the Samurai was prone to rollovers, earning a rating of "not acceptable" from Consumer Reports in 1988. Suzuki disputed the claims, suing the magazine eight years later for damaging the company's reputation. More stringent safety legislation contributed to the vehicle's eventual demise.

  8. Chrysler PT Cruiser (2000-2010)

    Retro designs have been all the rage over the last decade, with the PT Cruiser being one of forerunners of the movement. Given its distinctive design, it's an acquired taste for consumers. Those who've invested in the vehicle in recent years have compromised safety, as it's weak on crash protection compared to other small cars. According to The Insurance Institute For Highway Safety, it received poor marks in both the side and rear protection and head/seat restraint evaluations. Discontinued in 2010, the car failed to evolve as Chrysler floundered.

  9. Smart ForTwo (1998-present)

    Mockingly called an "organ donor" car by its detractors, ForTwo is also small and efficient, getting more than 40 mpg. The money its owners save on gas can be used for medical bills — in one crash test, it hit a midsize Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan head on, leaving the passenger compartment essentially deflated. More small cars are expected to invade the roadways in the near future, but, in the meantime, it remains a danger to drive something that small when trucks and SUVs still rule to roost.

  10. Kia Rio (2000-present)

    In 2009, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the Rio poor marks in side and rear protection — much deserved considering it had the worst record for multi-car crash deaths in its class. Boasting a low price, the Rio is low on safety features and, of course, is small in size, naturally making it more vulnerable to bad accidents.

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