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SUVs Kill Pedestrians At Alarming Rates

Posted by Renée Yvonne Gardner | Feb 02, 2022

In recent years, SUVs have increasingly crossed over into more traditional passenger car body styles. In past years, SUVs used to resemble trucks. 

Features like lower bumpers may reduce the danger posed by SUVs crashing into passenger vehicles, but an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) report reveals that these newer, crossover-style SUVs are just as deadly to pedestrians as their truck-like predecessors.

A small but shocking study by the IIHS in Arlington, Virginia looked at a recent nine-year period. It found that pedestrian traffic crash deaths have increased an incredible 53%, explaining that pedestrians now account for around 20% of all traffic-accident related deaths.

This IIHS study discovered that at speeds from 20 to 39 MPH, 30% of pedestrians hit by SUVs lose their lives, versus just 25% of pedestrians dying after getting hit by traditional cars.

The study found a whopping 100% of pedestrians hit by SUVs at speeds of 40 MPH and above lost their lives, compared to 54% of hit by passenger cars dying from the same crash speed.

“The proportion of SUVs in the U.S. fleet has grown dramatically, so it's discouraging that they still seem to be more deadly to pedestrians than cars are,” explained IIHS Statistician Sam Monfort, lead author of this study.

Here, one problem may be the front-end design of SUVs. They're generally taller and more squared-off, compared to traditional passenger vehicles that sit lower to the ground, with more streamlined hoods than those on SUVs.  

The study explains that SUVs are more prone to throw pedestrians forward upon impact. This results in twice as many severe injuries, to pedestrians' hips and thighs, compared to injuries caused by traditional passenger cars.

Modern driver-assistance systems, capable of detecting the presence of pedestrians in the roadway, are hoped to help avoid these crashes.

Such systems automatically apply the brakes, trying to completely avoid, or at least minimize, the impact between an SUV and a pedestrian.

The IIHS analysis estimated that these crash prevention systems might prevent or lessen the severity of up to 65% of crashes with pedestrians, in the most common crash configurations, reducing deaths by 58%. 

Unfortunately, when the estimate got put to the test - - it failed. In 2019, four midsize sedans were tested by the AAA, in partnership with the Automobile Club of Southern California's Automotive Research Center. In this test, pedestrian detection by crash prevention systems was inconsistent.

This was especially true during dark conditions. Around 75% of pedestrian deaths occur after dark.

Overall, the crash prevention systems in this test were only 40% effective - - and most completely failed at vehicle speeds of 30 MPH or more.

So, for now, the only real way for SUV drivers to reduce the chance of injuring or killing a pedestrian is by reducing SUV driving speeds, and increasing their awareness of road conditions, both of which will decrease the chance that a fatal SUV versus pedestrian crash will occur.


If an SUV or other vehicle crashed into you, and you got hurt, or your loved one died as a result of a pedestrian auto accident, please call me today at 408-214-5555 or use my Contact form.

I am Renée Yvonne Gardner, a personal injury attorney.

For 16 years, I've been the voice of people injured and killed in traffic wrecks. I'm here to see your case through, fighting for you every step of the way. The first consultation is free, and you will consult directly with me.


Source: New Study suggests today's SUVs are more lethal to pedestrians than cars. IIHS. (2020 June 16).

Photo: Unsplash by Shahzin Shajid

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Renée Yvonne Gardner

Gardner Law's attorney Renée Yvonne Gardner represents auto accident wrongful death cases, serious personal injuries from auto accidents, slip and falls and dog bites, and assists consumers with disputes (small claims court assistance $12,500 or less claims for goods or services).

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