Study suggests SUV’s are more dangerous to pedestrians than cars, and for a good reason.

Jun 29, 2020

SUVs are more dangerous to pedestrians than cars

Innovation Runs Through the SUV Industry: It is About Time Innovators Made them Less Dangerous

SUVs have never been more popular in the United States; there was a 7% increase seen in the number of SUVs in the passenger vehicle fleet between 2009 and 2018. The spaciousness, practicality and robustness is seemingly appealing to Americans like never before. It appears that this comes at a human cost, however — certainly relative to regular cars. 

The reason there seems to be a greater human cost that comes with SUVs is because evidence suggests that they are considerably more dangerous — and post a much more significant threat — to pedestrians in crashes than cars. 

This is despite the technological development that has gripped the SUV industry over the past two years. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit insurance organisation, released a study confirming many experts’ suspicions: SUVs propose a disproportionate risk to pedestrians.

Overall, over the past thirty years, there has been a downward trend in the total fatalities caused by motor vehicle accidents and crashes. This can largely be attributed to increased awareness about safety as well as technological developments.

However, there is a new worrying trend emerging over the last ten years: pedestrians deaths as a result of motor vehicles is steadily increasing. This had led to pedestrians now accounting for approximately 20% of all traffic fatalities — and the increased prevalence of SUVs on the roads would seemingly go some way in providing an explanation for this.

“The proportion of SUVs in the U.S. fleet has grown dramatically, so it’s discouraging that they still seem to be more deadly to pedestrians than cars are,” Sam Monfort, the lead figure in the study said via a statement.

As the number of pedestrians killed by vehicles has increased exponentially over the past decade — more than 50% — fatal single vehicle pedestrian crashes that involved SUVs also increased drastically: by 81% in just a seven year period, between 2009 and 2016. This was a comprehensively larger increase than any other form of road vehicle.

The report highlighted that SUVs, relative to cars, were more likely seriously injure pedestrians in crashes that occur at speeds of 19 miles per hour or greater; SUVs were more likely to propel pedestrians forward; and they were two times as likely to cause serious injuries to the hip and parts of the leg. The cause of the injuries is likely to be down to the relative size of the SUV — the bumper and leading edge of SUVs is higher than on a standard car.

INCIDENT DATE/TIME: 6-24-20 12:07 pm LOCATION: 24th St & Hoover Ave. CITY: National City

The findings comes from sample analysis of 79 crashes in three different urban settings across Michigan. Further findings include: between the speeds of 20-39 miles per hour, 30% of SUV crashes resulted in a pedestrian fatality, whereas only 23% of standard car crashes had the same outcome. Furthermore, above the speed of 40 miles per hour, 100% of SUV crashes resulted in a pedestrian fatality, compared to 54% of standard car crashes.

Of course, SUV makers and dealerships could offer an easy rebuttal: the sample size is too small to extrapolate the data to the general population. It is very hard to form any meaningful conclusion for SUVs across the United States when the data is derived from just three areas across Michigan. With that said, there is evidence to suggest that the data from this new study corroborates previous studies on the topic.

Earlier research provided data to support the premise that SUVs were more likely to propel pedestrians forward and were more likely to cause hip and thigh injuries.

A previous Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also provided analysis behind the substantive increase in the frequency of pedestrian crashes and noted that SUV pedestrian crashes were quickly increasing. Furthermore, we are privy to studies on SUVs that were conducted between the 1970s and 1990s which indicated larger vehicles, such as SUVs and passenger vans, were significantly more likely to kill pedestrians in crashes than regular cars.

However, the validity of data collected on SUVs in that time period is undermined by the fact that SUVs have seen significant changes to design in the past two decades, lead by entrepreneurship that is so ripe across many industries in the United States. It is exactly that innovation, which has seen the streamlining of SUV designs, that makes the fact that SUVs are still so dangerous to pedestrians even more troubling.

An important improvement that has arisen as a result of changes to SUV designs is the reduced threat posed to other car users in accidents. SUVs are now seemingly more car-like — the structures that absorb the force are now better matched to standard cars, which means crashes between SUVs and cars are less likely to result in fatalities.

SUV manufactures and designers now need to make a similar concerted effort to reduce the threat posed to pedestrians. Becky Mueller, Senior Research Engineer at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, pointed out that “[their] findings provide more evidence that manufacturers need to make design changes to help combat the increase in pedestrian fatalities now that more of the vehicles on the road are SUVs.”

The evidence suggests that it is the fact that SUV grilles, bumpers and headlights are significantly higher and more prominent than the average car that makes them more dangerous, as well as the sheer size and weight of the SUV.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have made it clear that they will look into which designs are the safest (or, better put, least dangerous) for pedestrians: hopefully SUV manufacturers can take note of the findings.

What Should I Do if I Am Involved in an Accident with an SUV?

Following an accident, it is important that you do a number of things:

  • Seek medical attention. This should be your number one priority.
  • Gather details of the scene — this is best done through taking pictures of the accident. This will serve as useful evidence.
  • Exchange contact details and any insurance information with the parties involved in the accident.
  • If possible, commit details of the accident to paper whilst your memory is still fresh.

Following that, you need to get in touch with a top Los Angeles car accident attorney as soon as possible.

Accidents at the hands of SUVs can lead to devastating injuries: we do not believe you should have to suffer through these without equitable compensation. We will evaluate the strength of your claim and proceed with your best interests at heart. Where negligence can be shown, you may be entitled to damages that cover medical bills, loss of income, pain and suffering, emotional distress, punitive damages and/or loss of consortium.

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