More large vehicles lead to an increase in pedestrian deaths

Pedestrian deaths are increasing largely because of higher SUV and pickup sales, says a new report.

SUV and pickup sales have soared in recent years and now account for about 60 percent of new vehicle sales. As the Detroit Free Press recently reported, those higher large vehicle sales are making the roads much deadlier for pedestrians and other vulnerable road users. In fact, a study done by the newspaper shows that the increase in deadly pedestrian accidents in recent years - which has happened even while overall traffic deaths have declined - is likely largely due to the increase in SUV and pickup sales.

Pedestrian deaths rise along with SUV sales

Pedestrian deaths have climbed dramatically in recent years, with a 46 percent increase since 2009. Nearly 6,000 pedestrians were killed in the U.S. in 2016 alone. That increase is despite the fact that overall traffic fatalities have been on a long downward trend.

The increase in pedestrian deaths mirrors the increase in SUV and pickup sales. While pedestrian fatalities had been falling along with other motor vehicle fatalities up until 2009, since then those safety gains have been almost entirely wiped out. It was around that time that SUV sales also started to pick up and sedan sales began to decline. As NPR notes, between 2009 and 2016 the number of pedestrian fatalities caused by SUVs in single-vehicle crashes soared by 81 percent.

Why are SUVs more dangerous?

There are two reasons why SUVs and pickups are more dangerous for pedestrians. The biggest factor is how they are designed. Both SUVs and pickups have higher and broader front ends, so that when they strike a pedestrian they are more likely to strike critical areas like the head and torso. Sedans, on the other hand, are more likely to hit a pedestrian's legs.

Another factor is that SUVs have become more powerful and capable of higher top speeds. Many states have also increased their maximum speed limits. Speed largely determines the severity of a pedestrian accident. A pedestrian's probability of death when struck by a vehicle going 20 mph is just five percent, but it increases to 85 percent if the vehicle is driving at twice that speed.

While federal officials have long known about the dangers posed by SUVs to pedestrians, they have been reluctant about adopting new safety standards, such as a pedestrian safety rating, that safety experts say could save lives. According to the Detroit Free Press report, that reluctance is at least partially due to some automakers lobbying against tougher safety standards.

Personal injury law

Those who have been hurt in an accident should know that they have somewhere to turn to for help. The aftermath of a crash can be confusing and stressful, but a personal injury attorney can provide some guidance. An attorney can show clients what compensation they may be entitled to and how to go about filing a claim.