SUVs are proving to be as dangerous as we predicted. While they may look nice and be fun to drive, the truth is that they are proving to be a great risk especially to pedestrians. With a larger hood and wide A-frames, these large and heavy vehicles reduce visibility for the driver, increasing the risk that they might not see someone crossing the road right in front of them.
In July of last year, we wrote on the dangers of SUVs and large vehicles, and how pedestrians are greatly at risk of accidents with these vehicles. Turns out, we were right; a recent USA Today article shows us the results of a study done by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which found that pedestrian deaths have been rising over the years, increasing 59% since 2009. Per USA Today, data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows 6,519 pedestrians were killed in 2020 in the United States. In 2009, SUVS made up about 47% of vehicle sales. In 2021, three quarters of vehicles sold were light trucks (the classification that SUVs fall under). It is the study authors, however, who link the rise in pedestrian deaths with an increased purchase and use of SUVs: “The link between these vehicle types and certain common pedestrian crashes points to another way that the increase in SUVs on the roads might be changing the crash picture,” per study co-author and IIHS researcher Jessica Cicchino.
Why are SUVs deadlier than other vehicles?
One factor found to be responsible for pedestrian deaths is the point of impact on a person when they are struck by the vehicle. With smaller sedans, if they strike a person, the point of impact is the person’s legs. While this can be devastating, this is less likely to be a fatal hit than when an SUV or other light truck hits a civilian. An SUV has a taller front end than a sedan, and when they strike a person, more of the pedestrian’s body is going to be hit by the car, colliding with the body from the waist down. As your torso and abdomen contain many necessary organs, it is more likely that a victim of an accident with an SUV is going to be fatal.
Another factor that has been seen to increase the crash rate of SUVs is the thick A-pillars, which hold up the roof of the car. Federal roof standards require A-pillars to be strong and thick enough to keep the roof from collapsing in the event of a roll-over accident. However, these wide pillars can block the view of the driver, possibly prohibiting them from seeing a pedestrian walking across the road in front of them.
Wen Hu, an IIHS senior transportation engineer and study author, wrote that having strong A-pillars is important to passenger safety, but instead of making the pillars wider, vehicle manufacturers need to make the pillars out of a stronger metal instead. Keeping the pillars narrower so that they do not obstruct the view of the driver as much would make them safer for pedestrians.
Not only are the pillars restricting view, but so are the tall hoods of light trucks. Jennifer Stockburger, director of operations at Consumer Reports’ said, “to see over that high hood, you’re going to be looking further down the road.” Since 2000, pickup hood heights have risen 11%: “The hood of a 2017 Ford F-250 heavy-duty pickup was 55 inches off the ground, as tall as the roofs of some cars,” per Stockburger. With hoods so high, it is practically impossible for the driver to see an errant child who might have run out into the road after a toy or pet.
These scientists and professionals agree that more studies need to be done on the line of sight of those in SUVs and light trucks, and that automatic emergency braking should be made standard in all vehicles. Luckily, most vehicle manufacturers have promised to ensure that automatic emergency braking will be built into all their models by the end of this year.
The injuries pedestrians face when being hit by an SUV are severe and life-changing, if not life-threatening. Our dedicated Nashville pedestrian accident lawyers are experienced in handling cases concerning these vehicles, and we will fight to ensure you are compensated for your injuries and damages.
We want everyone to get what they want out of a vehicle, but we also want to make sure that our roads here in Nashville stay safe for pedestrians, especially as the weather warms up and more people are outside. So as more SUVs are on the road, we will continue to work hard for victims of pedestrian accidents. If you have been injured in an accident with an SUV, contact our experienced and dedicated Nashville pedestrian accident attorneys at the Rocky McElhaney Law Firm. Call us at 615-425-2500 or you can fill out our contact form, if that’s easier for you. We can set up a free consultation with you at one of our offices in Nashville, Hendersonville, or Clarksville.