SUVs are fun to drive, but dangerous for pedestrians, bicyclists

Sport utility vehicles (SUV) are big and rugged, providing plenty of clearance and great visibility. It isn’t surprising that they are popular, but their popularity comes at a price. Multiple studies have shown these heavy vehicles are much more likely to cause fatal injuries in pedestrian crashes and collisions with bicyclists.

According to a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), pedestrian accidents rose 13% from 2009 to 2016, but the percentage of pedestrians killed increased by more than twice that rate.

The 2018 IIHS report states that pedestrian fatalities in crashes with SUVs rose more than 80% from 2009 to 2016, while fatalities caused by cars and other types of vehicles rose by half that or less.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that more than 850 bicyclists are killed each year in the approximately 47,000 collisions between motor vehicles and bicycles.

Fatalities on the rise

Cyclist fatalities declined for most of the 1990s and 2000s, but that trend reversed in 2010 and has been rising ever since, reaching 30-year highs.

The recent surges in bicyclist and pedestrian deaths can be partially explained by the designs of cars and SUVs. Cars are heavily designed with crash safety in mind and redirect the forces of a collision to the bumper and various crumple zones to keep passengers safe. However, pedestrians have little to no protection against a large, fast-moving vehicle.

Bigger isn’t always better

Crashes with SUVs do more damage than crashes with cars. Severe injuries to the torso are much more likely to occur in collisions with larger vehicles. However, it should be noted that only head trauma accounts for more fatalities in these kinds of violent crashes.

Experts urge bicyclists to wear helmets, put on reflective clothing and always use caution when crossing streets. Pedestrians should be sure to pay attention to approaching traffic before entering a crosswalk, especially at night.