Cyclist Accidents With SUVs Result In More Serious Injuries: Study

The higher front ends of SUVs increase the risk of head and upper body injuries in cyclist accidents.

A new study highlights the risks associated with accidents between cyclists and SUVs, indicating that the crashes are more likely to lead to serious injury or death, since the vehicles are likely to strike the cyclist higher on their body.

Researchers from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) published a report this month on SUV accidents involving bicyclists, indicating that there are substantially higher risks of serious and potentially fatal injuries than are seen with cyclist crashes with passenger vehicles, more often resulting in injuries to head, chest, spine and limbs.

Despite vehicle safety improvements, accidents with cyclists and pedestrians are increasingly deadlier in recent years, with the number of fatal bicycle accidents rising from 621 deaths in 2010 to 932 deaths in 2020. Those numbers align with the increased popularity of SUVs and other large passenger vehicles, which researchers warn are linked to higher rates of severe head and upper body trauma for people walking or cycling.

Cyclist Crashes With SUVs More Likely to Cause Serious Trauma

Researchers from the IIHS, in conjunction with the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), analyzed data from 71 cyclist car crash injuries in Michigan. The data included police reports, medical records, and accident reconstruction diagrams. Every accident involved a cyclist aged 16 or older, and a single SUV or car.

The study then compared how the crash injury severity varied for cyclists struck by cars versus cyclists struck by SUVs. Then researchers evaluated the injuries according to an Abbreviated Injury Scale, which rates injuries by body region, and an Injury Severity Score, which assesses overall bodily injury based on the affected body parts.

When researchers calculated the results, they found that instances of serious head injuries in cyclist accidents with SUVs was 63% higher than in cyclists hit by passenger cars. In addition, severe whole body trauma was rated as 55% higher in cyclist SUV crashes than in cyclist crashes with a passenger vehicle.

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Researchers determined that the overall force of an SUV impact on bicyclists is higher than that of a passenger vehicle because SUVs have taller front ends, which can knock cyclists down instead of vaulting them over a vehicle’s hood. They are then at risk of injury from being run over by the SUV as the driver attempts to stop. These “ground-impact injuries” result from contact with the SUV’s wheels and undercarriage, and can cause severe and potentially fatal head and upper body trauma.

Previous studies have shown larger and more robust front ends of newer model SUV’s increase passenger safety in collisions with other cars.

Fatal SUV Cyclist Crashes On the Rise, Especially For Children

In addition to concerns about the risks associated with SUV accidents involving cyclists, other studies have shown that children face a particularly high risk.

A study released last year found that SUVs are only involved in 16.9% of all pedestrian and cyclist crashes, yet account for 40% of fatal injuries involving pedestrians and cyclists. The data also indicated that children struck by an SUV are eight times more likely to die than children impacted by a passenger car.

Researchers who conducted the study again blamed the increased likelihood of fatal SUV crash injuries involving kids on the higher front ends of late model SUVs, which create blind spots making it harder for drivers to see children.


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