A new study by highway safety experts suggests that sport utility vehicles (SUVs) are more likely than passenger cars to seriously injure or kill pedestrians, due to the blunt front end designs, which transfer more energy during the impact to a pedestrian’s upper body.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) released a study last month, which found that growth in popularity of SUVs and crossover vehicles has resulted to a higher rate of injury and deaths among pedestrians. The researchers say changes to SUV front end designs could mitigate some of those pedestrian injuries.
The study involved a review of 79 pedestrian-involved crashes from the Vulnerable Road User Injury Prevention Alliance (VIPA) pedestrian crash database. The events were recorded in three urban areas of Michigan and included an in-depth analysis of the event, crash reconstruction and a detailed police report.
According to the analysis, SUVs caused more serious injuries than cars when impacts occurred at greater than 19 miles per hour. At speeds ranging between 20 to 39 mph, SUVs were associated with a 30% fatality rate while passenger cars caused a fatality in 22% of occurrences.
Pedestrian SUV accidents that occur at speeds over 40 miles per hour have a nearly 100% fatality rate, compared to 7 out of 13 fatalities for passenger cars traveling at similar speeds.
The IIHS study is consistent with past research, which has shown SUVs are more likely to throw pedestrians forward and nearly twice as likely to cause severe hip and thigh injuries due to the high point of their leading front edge design.
The study reviewed the impact of the different front end style of vehicle, finding a collision with a block-front SUV, the grille strikes the pedestrian’s pelvis or chest split seconds after the bumper hits the lower extremities, transferring more energy to the pedestrian’s body.
Researchers theorized that if the SUVs contained a more sloping front end profile, that it could mitigate the severity of the injuries sustained by a pedestrian.
Although the study is not a national review, the fatality rate per pedestrian collision may be on the rise due to the nation’s change in vehicle fleet design toward more fuel-efficient, bolder and heavier front end SUV’s and crossovers.
According to the 2019 Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities by State report released by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) in February, the number of pedestrians killed in traffic accidents increased significantly last year, reaching the highest levels recorded in more than three decades.
GHSA’s report indicated auto accidents that resulted in a pedestrian death increased by 5% when compared to 2018. The report estimated there were 300 more pedestrian fatalities recorded in 2019, involving 6,590 incidents, compared to 6,283 fatalities in 2018. Compared to all traffic related fatalities for 2019, pedestrian deaths accounted for 17% of all incidents.