SUV Crashes With Pedestrians and Cyclists Cause Most Severe Injuries, Especially For Kids

SUV’s were involved in only 16.9% of pedestrian and cyclist crashes, yet accounted for 40% of pedestrian and cyclist fatalities

While all crashes involving pedestrians and cyclists pose serious risks, a new study highlights the disproportionate impact of SUV accidents, which lead to more severe injuries and significantly higher rates of death, especially among children.

Researchers from the University of Illinois warn that children face a substantially higher risk of dying when struck by a SUV, compared to those struck by a passenger car, with the most common injuries involving the head and chest. The findings were published on June 8 in the Journal of Safety Research.

Pedestrian-related crashes have been on the rise in recent years, with the number of SUV-involved pedestrian fatalities skyrocketing 79% in 2020 Those numbers support past research indicating the higher front ends of SUVs commonly cause increased trauma to a pedestrian when struck, decreasing the odds of survival following an impact even at low speeds.

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Researchers from the University of Illinois at Springfield reviewed crash and hospital data reported in that state from 2016 through 2019, investigating the relationship between vehicles involved in pedestrian and cyclist accidents and the hospital and fatality records.

The study involved 23,090 pedestrian and cyclist crashes, including 14,552 pedestrian crash reports and 8,538 cyclist accidents. There were 477 pedestrian fatalities reported by police representing  85.5% of deaths, while the remaining 14.5% involved cyclists.

Overall, passenger cars were involved in 62% of pedestrian and cyclist accidents and accounted for only 19% of fatalities, while SUV’s were the striking vehicle in only 16.9% of crashes, yet accounted for 40% of pedestrian and cyclist fatalities. Pickup trucks were found to be involved in just 5.6% of pedestrian and cyclist crashes, but accounted for 12.6% of fatalities.

Children Hit In SUV Accidents 8x More Likely to Die

Researchers further identified children as being eight times more likely to die when struck by a SUV, compared to those struck by a passenger car. This may support some concerns that the higher front ends of SUVs and trucks create blind spots which makes it harder for the drivers to see children, especially when a vehicle is turning, and the blunt force of impact greater from being impacted by a larger vehicle.

Researchers pointed out that during the study’s timeframe, the Governors Highway Safety Administration (GHSA) found 4,074 children were killed in motor-vehicle crashes in 2016, which made car crashes the number one killer of American children.

While the study clearly outlines a heightened risk of serious injury and death to unprotected pedestrians and cyclists, researchers are calling for more data from crash-related hospital records to identify those who may be most vulnerable, such as children. The study was funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Fatal Auto Accidents on the Rise

The rising rate of fatal car accidents has become a major focus of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). It released a series of safety recommendations in September 2018, calling for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), CDC and the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) to collaborate on efforts to produce better standards to protect pedestrians.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) released a report in March which 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.

The report states that 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.

A 2020 report by the Governors Highway Safety Administration found that pedestrian deaths from traffic accidents increased by 4.8% in 2020, and projects the U.S. pedestrian fatality rate per billion vehicle miles traveled jumped to 2.3 deaths, which is an unprecedented 21% increase from 1.9 in 2019.


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