Sports Utility Vehicles, more commonly known as SUVs, have long-standing reputations for being stylish off-roading vehicles, capable of loading more passengers and cargo than the average pedestrian car. Recently, however, SUVs are gaining another less favorable reputation for being deadly and contributing to the rising fatality rate of pedestrians across the country.
SUVs Are Causing Fatalities
Pedestrian traffic fatalities in the United States are climbing at an alarming rate. For the second year in a row, pedestrian traffic fatalities have hit a 25-year high, with nearly 6,000 killed in 2017 alone according to a report by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). Congestion and distractions on the road are predictable reasons for why pedestrian fatalities may be on the rise, but a study released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is showing SUVs could also be contributing to the increase in these traffic deaths.
The study, examining pedestrian crash statistics between 2009 and 2016, found that fatal accidents involving SUVs increased at a significantly higher rate than other cars. Over an eight-year span, fatal pedestrian accidents involving an SUV saw an 81% increase while all other vehicles saw a 46% increase- what’s causing this deadly trend?
SUVs Are Taking Over The Roads
One of the possible reasons for why more SUVs are increasingly involved in accidents resulting in pedestrian fatalities is that there are more of them on the roads every year. SUV sales now account for at least 60% of all new car sales in the country according to an article published by AARP. To meet the demand, automobile companies such as Ford and Fiat Chrysler recently announced they have stopped manufacturing a number of their passenger vehicles to produce more variations of SUVs and trucks to sell in the upcoming years- good news for car buyers, not so much for pedestrians. The more SUVs and high horsepower vehicles on the road, the higher the chances of a serious threat to all pedestrians who cross their paths.
SUV Collisions Are More Deadly
SUV accidents are not only becoming more frequent but more deadly. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administrations (NHTSA) reports that pedestrians are two to three times more likely to be killed when struck by an SUV or pickup truck than in an accident involving an average size passenger vehicle. SUV accidents result in more fatalities for pedestrians after a collision due to various factors, such as:
- Higher front ends: The front ends of most SUVs are designed to be blunt and higher than most other cars on the road. When hitting a pedestrian from the front, the angle of the front end is more aligned with a pedestrian’s chest and head, two injuries which often result in fatal impacts. Higher front ends can also make it more difficult for drivers to see pedestrians and stop in time to avoid an accident.
- Higher speeds: Drivers of SUVs tend to travel at higher speeds. With more horsepower than smaller cars, drivers feel protected on the road but put pedestrians at risk for high-speed impacts.
- Higher rollover rates: Because they are taller and narrower than other vehicles, SUVs at a higher risk for rollover accidents which could easily kill a pedestrian if they are caught underneath.
- Heavier weights: The weight of an SUV is higher than the average passenger vehicle which contributes to the extreme force of the impact on a pedestrian in the case of a collision.
Traffic accidents involving pedestrians struck by a car can cause catastrophic injuries, but they aren’t always deadly- SUVs are taking away any chance pedestrians have to survive unnecessary traffic accidents on the road.
Making SUVs Safer
The design and build of most SUVs are naturally unsafe, at least for the pedestrians they come in contact with. Without completely redesigning these models, avoiding accidents in the first place is one of the best ways to reduce the number of pedestrians fatalities caused by SUVs. Advanced safety features are great tools for encouraging motorists to drive safer on the road, some of the most effective including:
- collision warning systems
- automatic emergency braking systems
- back-up cameras
- better headlights
Unfortunately, the design of SUVs creates a serious problem when it comes to installing other systems that could save the lives of pedestrians in the case of an accident. For instance, the active hood lift system is a safety system designed to lessen a head blow a pedestrian would sustain if hit from the front end of a car. However, because SUVs are designed with high front ends, it’s more likely a pedestrian would hit their head on the bumper, rendering the active hood lift ineffective for protection.
A Public Health Concern
Pedestrian fatalities caused by SUV traffic accidents is a public health concern we all need pay attention to. Countries such as Europe and Japan have already required automakers to install pedestrian-protective systems in all new vehicles- the United
States has yet to follow suit. Municipalities could also be doing more to help reduce pedestrian deaths according to the IIHS, making changes such as spreading awareness of safe pedestrian walking behaviors, providing well-lit crosswalks, easy to read/hear crossing signals, and redesigning roads to limit the availability pedestrians have to j-walk across the street.
For pedestrians on the street…stay alert! Only cross at the crosswalks, never assume a car sees you crossing, and don’t try to beat an SUV across the road. Following these simple safety tips can greatly reduce your chances of becoming a victim in a fatal traffic accident.
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a vehicle accident involving an SUV or other high horse powered vehicles, contact our expert team of personal injury attorneys at D’Amore Law for support. Our free consultation will help determine the best course of action in your case to seeking justice against negligent drivers who cause unnecessary and preventable injuries on the road.