Pedestrian Crossing Accidents More Likely With SUVs, Minivans, Pickup Trucks: Report

Thicker support beams for the roof and higher hoods are believed to be contributing factors to why larger vehicles cause more fatal pedestrian accidents.

A recent study found that minivans, SUVs, vans, and pick-up trucks are far more likely than smaller cars to hit pedestrians crossing the road, and pose a serious risk of causing fatal injuries while making turns at intersections.

In what is considered the first research of its kind, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) released a report this month, which examines the link between larger vehicles, such as SUVs, minivans, and pick-up trucks, and the risk of pedestrian crossing accidents.

Researchers performed an analysis of single-vehicle crashes with single-pedestrians from the North Carolina state crash data, and from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), looking at major pedestrian crossing accidents that occurred both at or near intersections, as well as nonintersections.

According to the findings, larger, left-turning vehicles were between two to four times more likely to cause a fatal pedestrian street crossing accidents than smaller passenger vehicles.

When making right turns at intersections, pickup trucks were noted to be 89% more likely to cause pedestrian street crossing fatalities than smaller cars; while SUVs were 63% more likely. On roadways, outside of intersections, pickup trucks were noted to be 80% more likely to cause a pedestrian accident than passenger vehicles, while SUVs and minivans were 61% and 45% more likely, respectively.

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The IIHS study points to both the increasing number of larger vehicles on roadways and the more limited viewing angles of those vehicles, due to the wider A-pillars needed to hold up the heavier and more expansive roofs, as possible factors in the rise in pedestrian-involved accidents and fatalities.

According to a New York Times report, in 2019 the popularity of SUVs was at an all-time high, making up nearly 50% of sales in the U.S. market. That popularity has not seemed to wane with more and more Americans opting for the comfort and space of larger vehicles to the once-popular family sedan.

The increased number of larger vehicles on the road also brings an increase in the problems associated with those vehicles, namely more potential blind spots.

Federal roof-strength standards require that these vehicles be made in such a way as to prevent a roof collapse in the event of an auto accident that causes a rollover. For SUV, pickup truck, and minivan makers, this results in wider, thicker A-pillars that can properly support the higher weight of the roofs. The size and placement of those larger A-pillars can result in blind spots not found in smaller passenger cars.

“It’s possible that the size, shape or location of the A-pillars that support the roof on either side of the windshield could make it harder for drivers of these larger vehicles to see crossing pedestrians when they are turning,” says IIHS Senior Transportation Engineer and study co-author, Wen Hu in an IIHS press release concerning the study.

While higher overall ride height was also cited as a possible contributing factor to the dangers the vehicles present to pedestrians, trucks can present additional forward visibility problems due to their often higher and longer hoods. A Consumer Reports article from June 2021 noted an almost 11% increase in the hood height of passenger trucks since 2000. The higher hoods make it far more difficult to see pedestrians near the front of the vehicles.

Within the 11 years between 2009 and 2020, the U.S. saw a nearly 60% increase in automobile-involved pedestrian deaths. In that same year close to 55,000 pedestrians were injured in automobile accidents. The increase in SUVs, pickup trucks, minivans, and vans on U.S. roadways is believed to be a factor.

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