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Are SUVs to blame for the rise in fatal pedestrian accidents?

In recent years, the popularity of sport utility vehicles has increased. This larger type of vehicle has a fair amount of power and is useful for large families who may need to transport several passengers or for those who want to haul a great deal of cargo. Chances are, if you don't own one of these vehicles, you know someone who does, and their usefulness is inarguable.

Unfortunately, some researchers are now arguing that the popularity of SUVs has contributed to a rise in pedestrian deaths in recent years. The rate of pedestrian fatalities has shot up 46 percent. These researchers allege that several factors make death a more likely outcome in a pedestrian accident involving an SUV. They also have suggestions on what actions communities can utilize to prevent more deaths.

Findings about SUV-involved pedestrian accidents

The first factor that makes an SUV more likely to kill a pedestrian is its size and weight. Besides these vehicles weighing more than a sedan, the front end of an SUV is much taller and more blunt than most other cars. This means that an SUV is more likely to strike a pedestrian higher up on the body, and cover more surface area, potentially hitting vital organs. Most passenger vehicles will hit a person in the legs, which can be a devastating injury, but one that a person can survive.

The increased power of many SUVs means that these vehicles can drive faster. Faster speed increases the chance of causing a fatality. One study found that 5 percent of pedestrians die from a crash with a car when it is traveling 20 miles per hour. If that speed increases to just 40 miles per hour, the probability of death shoots up to 85 percent for pedestrians.

Reports from the NHTSA

Interestingly, statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration say that motor vehicle crashes have decreased over the last 18 years. Pedestrian fatalities in that time frame were dropping as well, but there has been a sharp increase since 2009. Experts say that although improved safety standards are protecting people in traffic accidents, pedestrians are still at an increased risk.

In 2015, the NHSTA determined that SUVs pose a greater risk to pedestrians than other types of passenger vehicles. Their findings said that pedestrians are two to three times more likely to die in an accident with an SUV than another kind of car. The same report found that when considering all pedestrian fatalities, 40 percent of them involved an SUV or truck. SUVs accounted for a third of injuries to pedestrians.

What can be done?

Communities around the country are taking steps to minimize the chance of pedestrian fatalities. Changes to infrastructure helped reduce accidents in many cities, including reduction of lanes of traffic, adding concrete medians to wide roads, additional streetlights and crosswalk enhancements. Some cities now ban pedestrians from texting while crossing streets. Technology enhancements to vehicles can help prevent pedestrian deaths as well. This can include automatic emergency braking, pedestrian crash avoidance systems and more.

Hopefully, neither you or your loved ones will ever be affected by a pedestrian accident. If the worst should happen, you have rights under Illinois law regarding this type of tragedy. Know that you are not alone and that you can get help.

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