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Why SUVs Are a Major Hazard for Pedestrians

This content has been reviewed by Jason D. Stone.

Due to their enduring popularity, SUVs remain a big presence on US roads. Unfortunately, they also present some dangers.

These dangers aren’t due to the fact that there are more SUVs on roads in Massachusetts than ever before; new SUV models are more likely to kill a pedestrian than cars during a collision.

SUVs make up about 30% of the cars on the road today. This is up significantly from 2009 when SUVs were about 20% of all road vehicles. However, the number of fatal pedestrian-SUV crashes has risen 81% since 2009. This is a shocking increase that cannot be accounted for simply by the number of new SUVs on the road.

Pedestrian Safety Statistics

Nearly a fifth of all traffic fatalities, pedestrian deaths are occurring at a rate not seen since the early 1980s. In Massachusetts, there were 78 pedestrian fatalities in 2018. More than half of these deaths were in pedestrians over the age of 55.

Most pedestrian accidents occur when conditions are not ideal for drivers to notice them. Over half of pedestrian deaths occur when it is dark outside, at an intersection, and along arterial roads.

Nearly all pedestrian deaths in Massachusetts occur between October and December. These are the months with the shortest days and dangerous driving conditions due to changing weather patterns.

SUVs Alter Accident Physics

While it would be easy to dismiss the increasing SUV pedestrian fatality rate as simply due to the larger size of the vehicles, the reality is a bit more complex. At speeds over 20 mph, cars, SUVs, and trucks are all generating enough force to cause very serious injuries like complex fractures. It’s the location of this bone-breaking force that causes the differences in outcomes for pedestrians.

When a compact car or sedan hits a pedestrian, the height of the bumper or grill is usually on the lower body. The initial impact can crush the knee or break a femur. Your legs may be thrown out from under you, and the force of the impact can flip you up onto the hood. By the time your chest and head hit the car, you’ve lost significant momentum reducing the likelihood of more broken bones or head injury, depending on the initial speed of the car.

An SUV changes the physics of initial impact completely. The bumper and grill of SUVs are higher off the ground, aligning with your pelvis and chest. The grill is usually longer, increasing the total surface area that connects during the initial impact. When an SUV hits a pedestrian, they can suffer from broken ribs that can puncture a lung.

Since the impact aligns with their center of gravity, they are more likely to be pushed forward with the car or slide under it as the SUV moves forward. Less momentum is lost, and the risk of head injury is much higher than with a car.

The differently shaped front ends mean SUVs transfer much more force to a much more vital part of the human body. When combined with speed, this can be a deadly combination for pedestrians.

Increasing Pedestrian Safety

Car crash safety testing has traditionally ignored pedestrian safety. This has led to SUVs that keep the occupants very safe during collisions but pose a great risk to the health of those outside the vehicle.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is working to change that by developing a new crash test system for vehicles with automatic emergency braking. This test will help the IIHS rate autobraking systems in three different pedestrian-crossing scenarios.

Autobraking systems can be valuable for increasing pedestrian safety in multiple ways. These systems help protect pedestrians from distracted drivers by activating automatically when it detects a potential threat. Additionally, they can augment the driver’s vision during poor visibility situations. This can help reduce the number of pedestrian deaths that occur at night.

Even with pedestrian crash test ratings available, it will be several years before all vehicles on the road can meet higher safety standards. The average SUV owner keeps their vehicle for over eight years before trading it for a newer model.

Help When You Need It Most

At Jason Stone Injury Lawyers, we offer help and support when you need it most. Our experienced car accident lawyers will take care of your case so you can focus on recovery. If you’ve been hit by an SUV and suffered a serious injury as a result, you might be entitled to compensation. Contact us today for a free consultation on your case.

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