Pedestrian Deaths on the Rise. Could Vehicle Size be to Blame?
New research suggests that drivers of bigger vehicles, such as SUVs and pickup trucks, are substantially more likely to strike pedestrians than smaller vehicles when making turns. The study, conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), may link the surging popularity of larger vehicles in the United States with the uptick in nationwide pedestrian deaths.
As reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 6,516 pedestrians killed in the United States in 2020, the last year for which complete statistics are available. That is an increase of almost 4% from 2019.
Coincidentally, during the same period, sales for SUVs and pickup trucks have also risen. Today, SUVs, pickups, vans, and minivans are more widespread in the U.S. than ever before.
Why Are Larger Vehicles Thought to Be More Dangerous for Pedestrians?
Since SUVs and pickup trucks generally weigh more than the average vehicle, they tend to cause more severe injuries than smaller vehicles when they strike pedestrians. Vehicles of larger proportions also need bigger components, including wider pillars, to hold up and stabilize their roofs. These “A-Pillars” sit between the windshield and the cabin, an area crucial for detecting obstructions when making a turn. The wider the A-Pillar, the more it will impede a driver’s visibility, making it more of a challenge to spot a person crossing the road during a turn.
Truck, SUV, and van manufacturers must comply with federal safety standards that regulate the strength of A-Pillars to prevent roof collapse in rollover accidents. In order to satisfy these federal guidelines, the pillars in larger vehicles are typically wider to withstand the weights of the more oversized vehicles. Increasing the size of A-Pillars is not the only way to increase the strength of the pillar. Vehicle manufacturers could use stronger metals that could reduce the size of A-Pillars to increase the visibility without compromising safety in the event of a rollover crash. Automakers could also study the sightlines in bigger vehicles or add automatic emergency braking systems that can detect pedestrians.
A-Pillars are not the only thing to blame for the more significant blind spots in bigger vehicles. Last year, Consumer Reports measured the front visibility of 15 new vehicles. They found that some trucks’ hood heights created front blind spots 11 feet longer than many sedans, which can obstruct drivers’ views of pedestrians crossing in front of their vehicles. The magazine found that the heights of pickup truck hoods have risen 11% over the last twenty years. Today, some heavy-duty pickups have hoods as much as 55 inches off the ground, as tall as the roofs of some cars.
SUV, Pickup Truck, Van, and Minivan Pedestrian Accident Statistics
Researchers reviewed federal fatal pedestrian accident statistics as well as all accidents involving pedestrians reported to North Carolina police between 2010 and 2018. The statistics in North Carolina revealed that pickups were 42% more likely to hit pedestrians when making a left turn than cars, and SUVs were 23% more likely to strike pedestrians than cars.
The IIHS study also found that bigger vehicles were more prone to being involved in pedestrian accidents where the pedestrian was near the edge of the road, away from an intersection. Pickup trucks were 80% more likely than cars to hit a pedestrian along the road, outside of an intersection. SUVs were 61% more likely, and minivans were 45% more likely to hit people outside intersections than cars, IIHS reported.
Have You Lost a Loved One in a Portland Pedestrian Accident?
If you have been injured or lost a loved one in a Portland pedestrian accident, contact the Rizk Law personal injury team to set up a free, no-obligation consultation. Our pedestrian accident lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, which means you face no upfront costs or fees and only pay for our services if we help you recover compensation for your case.