Cars overall had the highest death rate of the main categories, at 48. They were followed by pickups (29), SUVs (25) and minivans (22).
The rate for small cars was 61.
"Smaller vehicles offer less protection for the driver in crashes, and their lighter mass means that they take the brunt of collisions with larger vehicles," said Joe Nolan, senior vice president of vehicle research at the institute, a nonprofit group funded by auto insurance companies.
Broken down into subcategories, four-door minicars (108), large two-door cars (67), mini station wagons (65) and small four-door cars (62) had the highest rates. The lowest rates were among midsize station wagons (4), large four-wheel-drive luxury SUVs (5), very large 4wd SUVs (7) and midsize 4wd luxury SUVs (9).
Small cars — e.g., the Kia Rio, Hyundai Accent, Nissan Versa, Chevrolet Cruze and Ford Fiesta — accounted for 15 of the 20 models with the highest death rates for the 2017 model year, the report said.
The four-door Fiesta — one of the cars cut from Ford's North American vehicle lineup — was the "worst performer," according to the IIHS report. It had 141 driver deaths per million registered vehicle years, the report said. The Fiesta hatchback had a driver death rate of 65.
"Safety is a fundamental priority in the design of our vehicles. Ford is committed to advancing safety technologies and crash performance to help customers stay safe on the road," a Ford spokesperson said in an emailed statement to Automotive News. "We look forward to learning what we can from the study to help do that, even as we continue investing in and developing key new technologies."
Two small cars — the Volkswagen Golf and the electric Nissan Leaf — were outliers in the data: The Golf posted a death rate of 0 per million registered vehicle years, and the Leaf's rate was 5.
Besides the Golf, six vehicles of the 2017 model year or equivalent earlier models had driver death rates of 0: the GMC Yukon XL 1500 4WD, Infiniti QX60 2WD, Land Rover Range Rover Evoque 4WD, Lexus NX 200t 4WD, Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan 4WD and Porsche Cayenne 4WD.
Nearly half of the 20 models with the lowest death rates were luxury crossovers and SUVs, such as the BMW X3 4WD, Infiniti QX60 4WD, Cadillac Escalade 4WD and Land Rover Range Rover 4WD, according to the report.
"Luxury models are often the first to benefit from new technologies like automatic emergency braking or improved technologies like better headlights," Young said.
For example, lane-departure warnings are associated with a 21 percent reduction in single-vehicle, sideswipe and head-on crashes with injuries, but the technology "isn't — and wasn't in 2017 — as widely installed on less expensive vehicles," he said.
The institute compiled the death rates by taking counts from NHTSA's Fatality Analysis Reporting System and registration data from IHS Markit. It also compared the driver death rates per 10 billion miles traveled — 26 overall — using VINs from the Highway Loss Data Institute database and odometer readings from Carfax and other sources.
Vehicles included in the study had to have at least 100,000 registered vehicle years of exposure in 2015-18, or at least 20 deaths.