Us petrolheads like to bemoan the SUV takeover of the modern car landscape, don’t we? We’ll whinge endlessly about more interesting cars being discontinued due to lack of interest from SUV-obsessed car buyers, but there’s a far more serious consequence of these high-riding road hulks populating the world in ever greater numbers.
An extensive investigation from the Detroit Free Press and USA Today has found that the rising popularity of SUVs is the “leading cause” in a shocking 46 per cent increase in pedestrian deaths in the country. There were nearly 6000 pedestrian fatalities in 2016 alone, the publications noted.
So, why SUVs in particular? It’s all down to the shape: they’re tall and generally slab-fronted, making potentially fatal contact with someone’s chest or head more common. According to a 2015 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report, pedestrians are two to three times “more likely to suffer a fatality when struck by an SUV or pickup than when struck by a passenger car.”
After analysing federal data, Detroit Free Press and USA Today concluded that there was a 69 per cent increase in SUV involvement when it came to pedestrian fatalities from 2009 to 2016, while also noting that the proportion involving SUVs had increased each year.
At the time of the NHTSA report, the organisation said that its vehicle safety rating system would be dramatically modified, but this is yet to happen.
Many of those killed were jaywalking and/or under the influence of alcohol, although as “long-standing common factors,” it’s not thought these account for the rise. Something that might have contributed is growing distractions from smartphones, for both the pedestrians themselves and the drivers, but it’s difficult to know how big the problem is as “data is lacking to quantify distraction,” the publications explained.
Make sure you check out the full report here.