Large SUVs and pickup trucks are popular in Washington and around the country because they are durable and can cope with harsh weather. The number of light trucks on the nation’s roads tripled between 2000 and 2019, and SUVs, crossovers and pickup trucks accounted for 70% of all new vehicles sold in the United States in 2020. This trend has pleased automakers, but it concerns road safety advocates who have linked the popularity of large passenger vehicles with a worrying rise in pedestrian fatalities.
Pedestrian deaths are soaring despite advances in automobile safety systems and improvements in road design. Pedestrian fatalities have risen by more than 50% in just the last 10 years and now account for one in five road deaths, and many experts believe that the growing popularity of full-sized pickup trucks and SUVs is largely to blame. According to research conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the number of deadly single-vehicle pedestrian accidents involving SUVs rose by more than 80% between 2009 and 2016.
More severe injuries
When IIHS researchers studied pedestrian accidents in Michigan, they discovered that fatality rates were up to 54% higher when an SUV was involved. Pedestrians struck by SUVs at speeds below 40 mph suffered twice as many severe thigh and hip injuries, and all of the pedestrians struck by utility vehicles traveling in excess of 40 mph were killed. Pedestrians struck by cars traveling at speeds above 40 mph survived about half of the time. Experts say that SUVs are deadly because their blunt front-end designs push pedestrians forward and into the roadway instead of lifting them up and onto the hood.
Cities impose regulations
The Department of Transportation has been tracking the rise in accidents involving SUVs since 2019, but the agency has yet to take action to address the problem. Some cities are taking the issue more seriously by introducing regulations that are designed to prevent SUVs from accessing areas with high levels of foot traffic. These efforts include outlawing push bars, taxing vehicles based on how heavy they are and introducing congestion charging in business districts. Ideally, these measures will help reduce the risk of pedestrians dying in motor vehicle accidents.