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Are SUVs More Deadly to Pedestrians?

car parked on the curb

A recent study released in March 2022 aimed to answer the question: Are sports utility vehicles (SUVs) more deadly to pedestrians? It was determined that SUVs, pickup trucks, and minivans are significantly more likely to strike pedestrians than small cars. This is especially true when the vehicle is making a turn or pedestrians are traveling along the side of the road. Due to the design of these larger vehicles, drivers are hindered by large blind spots that make it more difficult to see people on foot.

This new research, conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), is not the first study to link large sport utility vehicles to high rates of pedestrian injuries and fatalities. Safety regulators have known for several years that SUVs present threats to walkers that smaller cars do not.

As early as 2015, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) crash fatality data conclusively showed that a pedestrian was much more likely to be killed if struck by an SUV or pickup truck. The same year, SUVs outsold sedans in the U.S. auto market for the first time.

Research has exposed two dangerous facts about SUVs:

  • An SUV is more likely than a car to strike a pedestrian.
  • A pedestrian is more likely to be killed by an SUV than a car if struck.

Today, large passenger vehicles (SUVs, pickup trucks, and minivans) make up more than 70% of all motor vehicle sales. Experts predict that this percentage will continue to rise.

The car accident attorneys at Buckingham & Vega Law Firm work to advocate for those who have been injured or killed through motorist negligence. After learning more about why SUVs are more deadly to pedestrians, reach out to an experienced lawyer at our firm for help with your own legal matter. We provide free case evaluations to individuals and families seeking recovery after an injury or loss.

SUV and Pedestrian Accident Statistics

Agencies like the NHTSA publish motor vehicle crash data annually in comprehensive reports. Statistics gathered over the past several decades show a disturbing upward trend in the rate of pedestrian injuries and deaths involving motor vehicles.

Pedestrian Accident Statistics:

  • In 2020, 6,516 pedestrians were killed in the U.S. by being struck by a motor vehicle.
  • The number of pedestrian accident deaths in 2020 was nearly 4% higher (244 additional deaths) than the previous year—and the highest number since 1989.
  • Pedestrian deaths have increased by 59% since 2009.
  • In 2011, pedestrian deaths comprised roughly 16% of all car accident deaths. In 2020, over 20% of all motor vehicle deaths were pedestrians.
  • Pedestrian fatalities in urban areas have increased by 61% since 2011.

The most recent IIHS SUV-pedestrian accident study confirms what has been established over the past several years of analysis: SUVs and passenger trucks are significantly more likely to kill a pedestrian than a smaller car.

In a specific study conducted in Michigan, researchers evaluated the level of threat to a pedestrian’s life based on vehicle speed at the time of impact. The study concluded that:

  • At 20-39 mph: 30% of SUV crashes resulted in a pedestrian fatality, compared with 23% of car crashes.
  • At 40 mph or above: 100% of SUV crashes resulted in a pedestrian fatality, compared with 54% of car crashes.

The construction of an SUV makes it more likely to severely hurt or injure a pedestrian it strikes. But the design of these vehicles also contributes to the likelihood that a pedestrian will be struck at all. Experts point to the size, shape, and location of the “A-pillars” that support the roof of the vehicle along the outer ends of the front windshield.

These A-pillars create driver blind spots that make it difficult to see a pedestrian while turning. Turning left at an intersection was found to be the most dangerous maneuver for SUVs when pedestrians were concerned. SUVs were twice as likely to kill a pedestrian at an intersection turning left compared to driving straight. And the odds that a crash that killed a crossing pedestrian involved a right turn by the vehicle were 63% higher for SUVs than for cars.

People running or walking beside the road are at high risk of being struck by an SUV, van, or pickup truck. While it may seem safer to walk on the shoulder of the road than across the middle of the street, researchers found that SUV drivers have the greatest chance of seeing a pedestrian who is directly in front of the windshield.

If a pedestrian moves to the side or rear of the vehicle, they can easily be missed by the driver. Side-of-the-road crashes are of particular concern in rural areas. A study conducted in North Carolina found that SUVs were 61% (and pickup trucks 80%) more likely than cars to hit a pedestrian walking or running along the road.

Solutions to the Problem

The IIHS suggests several solutions to help curb the problem of increased SUV-involved pedestrian accidents. Suggestions include:

  • Better roads, sidewalks, and crosswalks designed with pedestrian safety in mind
  • Stricter speed limit enforcement
  • More innovative ways to calm traffic and reduce speeding
  • Improved lighting near roadways
  • Vehicle design to decrease blinds spots and lessen the force of impact
  • Incentives manufacturers offer drivers should trend toward smaller, walker-friendly vehicles

We at Buckingham & Vega Law Firm continue to strive toward improved traffic safety by every means possible. We know that there is never an excuse for negligence, recklessness, or intoxicated driving that kills or injures another person.

When we work to hold motorists accountable for dangerous driving behaviors, we make sure their recklessness never happens again. If you were hurt because a driver didn’t check their blind spots, sped through an intersection, or was texting behind the wheel, we can help. Reach out by phone (505) 388-0066 or online to begin a conversation with a Buckingham & Vega Law Firm car accident lawyer. There is never a fee to explore your legal options with an attorney on our team.

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