America’s love affair with crossovers, pickups and SUVs is having devastating consequences and we’re not talking about their environmental impact.
According to an investigation by the Detroit Free Press and the USA Today Network, SUVs are two to three times more likely to kill pedestrians compared to cars. Government officials have reportedly known about this for years but have “done little to reduce deaths or publicize the danger.”
The number of pedestrian deaths in the United States has climbed 46 percent since 2009 and the report says SUVs are largely responsible for the increase. This is having deadly results as nearly 6,000 pedestrians were killed in America in 2016.
Unsurprisingly, most of the fatalities occur in major cities. Among cities with populations of at least 200,000 residents, Detroit ranked as the most deadly with a pedestrian fatality rate of 34.5 people per every 100,000 residents. Other major cities that ranked high on the list include Newark, Miami, Tampa, St. Louis and Phoenix.
SUVs aren’t entirely to blame as many of the pedestrians that were killed, were either jaywalking or had alcohol in their system which could have impaired their judgment. Smartphones have also exploded in popularity since 2009 and it’s likely that a number of drivers and pedestrians, involved in fatal accidents, were distracted by the high-tech devices.
While a number of factors go into fatal accidents, the connection to crossovers and SUVs is pretty clear. There is some debate over the exact number, but the Detroit Free Press says there was a 69 percent increase in single-vehicle pedestrian fatalities involving SUVs between 2009 and 2016.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration mentioned a connection in a 2015 report which said “About one-third of pedestrians who are injured are stuck by an SUV or pickup truck, which corresponds closely to the make-up of SUVs and pickups in the U.S. vehicle fleet. However, SUVs and pickups account for closer to 40 percent of pedestrian fatalities, which suggests that injuries may be more severe when sustained in collisions with these vehicles.”
The report went on to say an analysis of 12 different studies showed that pedestrians are 2-3 times more likely to be killed when struck by a pickup or SUV than when hit by a car. This pushed the agency to propose a new ratings system to include a vehicle score for pedestrian safety.
The rating was slated to go into effect for the 2019 model year but it hasn’t. The NHTSA declined to say what caused the delay but some automakers are reportedly opposed to the new rating.
The news isn’t all bad as a number of automakers offer advanced driver assistance systems which can help to prevent or lessen accidents with pedestrians. These include forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking systems.