Do SUVs cause pedestrian deaths? Are SUVs more likely than other vehicles to result in death when they strike a person on foot?
According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), Consumer Reports, and AARP, SUVs cause pedestrian deaths - mainly due to their larger size and power.
Not only are SUVs more likely to kill pedestrians - twice as likely as smaller cars, but federal regulators have known this for years and have done little or nothing to address the problem or inform the public.
The continuing rise of pedestrian deaths caused by SUVs is well documented - what can our government do to prevent pedestrian deaths caused by SUVs? What is SC doing to reduce pedestrian deaths in our state?
Do SUVs Cause Pedestrian Deaths?
Pedestrian deaths have increased by 46% in the last decade - and studies have consistently shown that the increase is largely attributable to the increase in SUVs on US highways.
SUVs have become the best-selling vehicles in the U.S. One reason that people want to drive SUVs is that they are safer - for the person driving or riding inside the SUV. But, when you hit a person walking down the road or crossing the highway, what may have been a trip to the hospital for the pedestrian instead may end their life.
Why do SUVs Cause Pedestrian Deaths?
When an SUV strikes a walker, jogger, or child on the road, it is more likely to cause death because of its size and shape, as well as because SUVs tend to have more power and SUV drivers tend to accelerate faster.
Size and Front-End Profile
SUVs are larger and their front ends are higher. Where a collision between a typical car and a pedestrian may result in knocking the person down or a broken leg, a collision with an SUV and a pedestrian is more likely to result in head or chest injuries - which are more likely to be fatal.
Power and Speed
Another reason SUVs cause pedestrian deaths is because they tend to have more power - a six or eight-cylinder engine instead of a four-cylinder engine.
More power = faster acceleration = greater likelihood that the driver of an SUV is driving faster when they strike the pedestrian. Greater speed = greater likelihood of fatal injuries. The probability that a pedestrian will be killed by a collision with any vehicle increases exponentially as the speed of the vehicle increases.
In terms of statistics, according to a 1995 study by the European Commission:
- At 20 mph, there is a 5% probability of a fatal crash;
- At 30 mph, there is a 45% probability of a fatal crash; and
- At 40 mph, there is an 85% probability of a fatal crash.
What can't be calculated, but is surely a factor to consider, is the number of crashes that are avoided when vehicles are traveling at slower speeds - the slower the speed, the more likely the driver or the pedestrian will be able to swerve or get out of the way before tragedy strikes.
How Can We Reduce Pedestrian Deaths?
Cities across the US, safety advocates, and government studies have identified many different ways to reduce pedestrian deaths, including reducing the number of deaths caused by SUV-pedestrian collisions.
Pedestrian safety advocates have pointed to efforts like those in New York as examples for other cities. Through a combination of enforcement targeted at driver behavior, lowered speed limits and training for cab drivers, the city saw its pedestrian deaths last year drop to their lowest number, 101, since the city began tracking the statistic in 1910. Pedestrian safety advocates have pointed to efforts like those in New York as examples for other cities.
Other proposed changes include changes to roadways and intersections as well as changes to vehicle safety features that would reduce pedestrian deaths.
Changes to roadways and intersections that would reduce the number of deaths include:
- Reducing the number of lanes when feasible, shortening crossings and making it easier for pedestrians to cross;
- Adding pedestrian "refuges" to medians;
- Adding mid-block crossings;
- Increasing the number of speed-limit signs and pedestrian crossing signs;
- Increasing traffic cameras and police presence at problem intersections;
- Adding streetlights where there is a high pedestrian presence;
- Adding bike lanes;
- Adding crosswalks and improving existing crosswalks; and
- Adding pedestrian bridges or tunnels.
Why don't we make needed changes that have been proven to save lives?
Money - apparently, the cost of making the changes is not worth the lives of the people that will be killed if we don't make the changes.
Vehicle Safety Features
Adding vehicle safety features can also reduce the number of pedestrian deaths - now that we have the technology, why not use it? For example:
- Pedestrian crash avoidance systems;
- Low-speed automatic emergency braking;
- Adding space beneath the hood of the vehicle;
- Adding padding to the bumpers of the vehicle;
- Deployable hoods that can lift slightly and absorb an impact; and
- External airbags.
Why don't auto manufacturers make these changes that will save the lives of pedestrians?
Money - every safety feature that is added will add to the cost of the vehicle, which will result in consumers looking for another vehicle that doesn't have the safety features so they can pay less for their car, which will result in fewer sales for the manufacturer that includes the safety features...
What is SC Doing to Prevent Pedestrian Deaths?
The GHSA's 2018 report details what each state is doing to address pedestrian fatalities. For example, the SC Highway Patrol's Community Relations Officers:
- Give approximately 700 safety presentations a year;
- Attend hundreds of safety fairs;
- Give thousands of interviews on "various topics;" and
- Spent money on a billboard campaign.
The Office of Highway Safety and Justice Programs partnered with the South Carolina Highway Patrol to specifically target pedestrian and bicyclist safety issues through the Target Zero umbrella campaign. The Highway Patrol utilizes multiple avenues in its effort to educate the public about highway safety issues related to pedestrians, bicyclists and mopeds. Community Relations Officers give approximately 700 safety presentations a year, attend hundreds of safety fairs and give thousands of interviews on various topics, including the topic of vulnerable roadway users. Section 402 funds were used for a billboard campaign to supplement the Vulnerable Roadway Users (VRU) outreach efforts that had been used in the past. A sustained, redesigned VRU campaign is planned for spring 2019.
What's missing from this list? Only all the recommended changes above...
If you've been hurt by a collision with an SUV or any vehicle in an Horry County roadway or intersection, your Myrtle Beach pedestrian accident lawyer on the Axelrod team wants to help you.