A sadly growing trend in American transportation has been an increase in pedestrian and bicyclist deaths. There are several reasons for this, but one that is not mentioned as often as it should be is the increased size and altered shape of passenger vehicles on the road, whether they be SUVs or pickup trucks. Instead of a lower-profile front grill and bumper extending out at the bottom, many of high-profile vehicles now feature a flat, boxy front.
“A new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that between 2009 and 2016, pedestrian fatalities increased in nearly every circumstance examined. But among all types of vehicles, SUVs had the biggest spike in single-vehicle fatal pedestrian crashes [+81 percent], and crashes were increasingly likely to involve high-horsepower vehicles.”
With a higher profile, SUVs and pickup trucks strike a pedestrian or cyclist at a higher point on their body than past vehicles did. Plus, research has found that the flatter front end design of such vehicles pushes the victim underneath rather than over the top of the hood. Instead of being hit in the legs or waist, a high front profile truck or SUV now hits people between the chest neck level and it is more likely to run over them after they’ve been shoved beneath it. This is much more dangerous and deadly to a pedestrian or cyclist. Add on rugged grill guards, oversized tires, or similar aftermarket features and the risk of death or serious injury is to a pedestrian or cyclist compounded.
Ford recently announced that it was phasing out all sedans and solely focusing on pickup trucks, SUVs, and the Mustang. Furthermore, the Trump Administration has announced plans to roll-back fuel-efficiency standards. Both these actions will likely lead to more high profile, less fuel efficient vehicles on the road. An obvious result, as noted above and below, will be more fatalities and serious injuries when these road bullies collide with pedestrians and bicyclists.
“In 2015, researchers at the University of Michigan determined that pedestrians are more than three times as likely to be killed when struck by an SUV than when struck by a regular passenger vehicle. The critical design factor is the high, blocky front end, which pushes people below the wheels instead of over the hood.”
If super-sizing vehicles is going to be the norm ( Trucks and SUVs now make up 67 percent of the U.S. auto market, according to Automobile magazine.), then planners, engineers, politicos, and safety experts better start contemplating better ways to make those of us who walk or bike safer, whether it be protected bike lanes, slower speed limits in urban environments (see the benefits in the chart below), more sidewalks and signalized crosswalks, or applying a greater legal burden and media pressure on drivers and vehicle manufacturers. Increasing carnage on the roads is not an acceptable scenario!
Here’s a visual link to a book about SUVs that available on Amazon*.