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Why are SUVs and pedestrians such a deadly combination?

On Behalf of | Mar 1, 2023 | Car Accidents

Many Minnesotans opt to drive larger vehicles like SUVs. This isn’t surprising given the extra room and safety features available. Unfortunately, the prevalence of SUVs on the streets increases the risk of danger to pedestrians.

Study shows increased risk to pedestrians

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has researched why SUVs, pickup trucks and other larger vehicles are so dangerous for pedestrians. Although these vehicles are a regular fixture on roads everywhere, their size and weight significantly raise the risk of catastrophic injuries and even death.

The IIHS studied crashes that occurred between 2009 and 2020 and found that fatal pedestrian accidents increased by 59% during that time. This amounted to 6,500 deaths in 2020 with 54,700 pedestrians left seriously injured. The data shows a remarkable increase in accidents due to more drivers choosing large, bulky, heavy SUVs and other oversized vehicles. By contrast, pedestrians hit by smaller cars were less likely to be killed.

Understanding why this happens

SUVs, pickups and minivans have much higher bumpers than smaller cars, which means they hit pedestrians much higher up. While a small vehicle might hit an adult’s leg, causing a broken femur or dislocated knee, an SUV could hit them in the chest or abdomen and cause broken ribs and internal organ damage. This makes for a much deadlier accident.

The IIHS study also revealed that drivers of SUVs and other large vehicles were less likely to see pedestrians while making turns. The vehicles have a special A-pillar design that creates blind spots on either side, making it harder to see pedestrians. Over the years, this design has changed for the worse as far as pedestrians are concerned, as they have become bigger and wider.

The IIHS is aware of these dangers and is working on new crash tests to prevent such tragedies. It aims to enhance safety measures like automatic emergency braking in three potential pedestrian crossing situations. The IIHS considers all scenarios, including distracted and nighttime driving, to keep pedestrians safer.

Many pedestrian accidents are avoidable. However, you can’t control what drivers do; being extra alert may help protect you as a pedestrian.