Automotive trends come and go, and right now, Americans are showing a clear preference for SUVs. While many people opt for SUVs because of their rugged nature and plentiful cargo space, these heavy, oversize vehicles pose a large threat to pedestrians.
According to J.D. Power, SUVs have exploded in popularity in recent years, and this is bad news when it comes to pedestrian fatalities. Back in 2009, about 21% of all vehicles on American roadways were SUVs. Yet, less than 10 years later, SUVs comprise more than 70% of all new vehicles sold in the United States.
The link between SUVs and pedestrian deaths
SUVs have high front profiles, and this means the bulk of their weight strikes pedestrians higher up on their bodies than a smaller sedan would. Pedestrian fatalities currently account for about 21% of all traffic deaths, and a notable percentage of those involve SUVs.
The link between speed and pedestrian deaths
An Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study shows that SUVs are particularly dangerous for pedestrians when traveling at higher speeds. The study revealed that, when cars and SUVs hit pedestrians when moving above 19 mph, the pedestrians struck by the SUVs suffered more serious injuries than those struck by cars. When cars and SUVs hit pedestrians when moving at 40 mph, 100% of pedestrians struck by SUVs died. However, 46% of pedestrians struck by cars moving at 40 mph survived their injuries.
Some automakers have tried to change their SUV designs to make them less of a threat to pedestrians. Yet, pedestrian fatalities continue to rise year after year despite these changes.