MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) – A new study found that larger vehicles are more likely to hit pedestrians when making turns than smaller vehicles, such as cars.
In its research released Thursday, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety suggested that a possible reason for the rising number of pedestrian deaths on U.S. roads could be the popularity of larger vehicles. As a result of wider pillars holding up roofs of larger vehicles, the authors questioned whether drivers can see pedestrians walking near the corners of the vehicles.
It’s another indication that the increasing number of SUVs on the roadways may be changing crash statistics, says Jessica Cicchino, a study author and vice president of research for the institute.
The study mentions previous research that showed a link between blind spots and deaths caused by a “pillar” between the windshield and the cabin, but the authors emphasized more research is required to determine a link.
Data from the U.S. government show that 6,519 pedestrians were killed in the U.S. in 2020, the most recent year for which complete statistics are available. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data shows that’s up 59% since 2009, and up 4% from 2019.
Sales of SUVs and pickup trucks have also increased dramatically during this period. According to Motorintelligence.com, pick-up trucks, SUVs, and vans constituted 47% of all new vehicle sales in 2009. New vehicle sales were dominated by light trucks last year.
All pickups and SUVs
All pickups and SUVs, however, don’t have blind spots. Currently, the U.S. market is dominated by compact SUVs.
In addition, larger vehicles were more likely than cars to be involved in accidents near the edge of the road, away from intersections, where pedestrians were standing, walking or running.
The researchers examined federal crash statistics for pedestrian deaths as well as the police reports of pedestrian crashes in North Carolina from 2010 to 2018.
Pedestrians were 42% more likely to be hit by pickups than by cars while making left turns in North Carolina. Suvs hit people 23% more frequently than cars. According to the study, there were no significant differences between the chances of being involved in a right turn crash for the different types of vehicles.
There was an 80% higher likelihood of pickups hitting pedestrians along the road outside of intersections. IIHS says SUVs and minivans are 61% and 45% more likely to hit people than cars.
The federal roof-strength standards in place for trucks, SUVs, and vans prevent roof collapses in rollover crashes, according to IIHS. Because of the heavier weight of bigger vehicles, the pillars are typically wider.
Larger vehicles don’t just have blind spots because of pillars. According to Consumer Reports, high hoods also obscured drivers’ views of pedestrians crossing in front of their vehicles.
Jennifer Stockburger, director of operations at Consumer Reports’ auto test center, explained that looking over a high hood means looking further down the road.
Since 2000, pickup truck hood heights have increased 11%. Stockburger said the hood of a 2017 Ford F-250 pickup truck stands 55 inches off the ground, the same height as the roofs of some cars.
Ford, GM, and Stellantis declined to comment on the study. These companies sell the bulk of large SUVs and pickups in the U.S. We contacted Auto Innovators, an industry trade group, for comment.
Wen Hu, an IIHS senior transportation engineer and another study author, says automakers could make A-pillars smaller and more visible by using stronger metals. We all understand that these larger vehicles need stronger pillars. Strength can be increased not only by increasing the A-Pillar.
Researchers at the IIHS study vehicle safety.
Stockburger said the industry could also study the sight lines of bigger vehicles and add pedestrian detection systems to automatic emergency braking systems.
By September of this year, nearly all automakers have promised to make automatic emergency braking standard. Furthermore, federal safety regulators propose making the systems mandatory on all new vehicles.