A new study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) examining traffic accidents involving pedestrians discovered significantly higher fatality rates among vehicles with taller fronts than smaller passenger vehicles.
While pedestrian crash deaths reached a 40-year high in 2022 after rising quickly in the aftermath of the COVID pandemic, the number of casualties has been on the rise since 2009. In the same span of time, off-road and heavier-duty vehicles, namely SUVs, vans, and pickups, have become more and more popular. This shift in demand has led to a higher population of oversized and overweight vehicles on the roads.
While it is commonly accepted that vehicles meeting the descriptions above present a greater threat in the event of a crash than lighter, smaller alternatives, the IIHS study found that the likelihood of a pedestrian casualty rose as much as 45% when the SUV, van or pickup involved in the incident featured a flat- or square-shaped hood greater than 40 inches above the ground. On the other hand, smaller body styles, sloped or inclined hoods, and lower front-end designs correlated with a lower death rate. The IIHS based its findings on an analysis of nearly 18,000 traffic accidents, excluding incidents where driver-assistance systems, such as emergency braking, may have mitigated bodily harm.
“Some of today’s vehicles are pretty intimidating when you’re passing in front of them in a crosswalk,” stated IIHS President David Harkey. “These results tell us our instincts are correct: more aggressive-looking vehicles can indeed do more harm.” The organization urged automakers and regulatory officials to consider revisions that would reduce the shape and height of vehicle front-ends and lower the risks posed to pedestrians.