Almost 6,000 pedestrians were killed on streets in the U.S. in 2016, an increase of nearly 50 percent since 2009, according to Streetsblog.org. The reason for this increase? According to a new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, SUVs are to blame.
Using federal fatality and crash data, IIHS examined “roadway, environmental, personal and vehicle factors” from 2009 to 2016 and found that not only are crashes involving pedestrians increasing, they are becoming more deadly when they do occur. The share of pedestrian crashes that were fatal increased 29 percent during the study period.
Trucks and SUVs make up an increasingly large share of auto sales, representing 63 percent of total U.S. passenger vehicles purchased last year. These larger vehicles are more dangerous for pedestrians because they ride high, have flat front ends, and higher horsepower. That means they are likely to strike high on pedestrian’s bodies — at the chest rather than in the legs — and with more force.
During the study period, pedestrian crashes with all types of vehicles increased, but the report says the increase was largest among SUVs- 81 percent.
Other factors that had a significant impact on pedestrian deaths were risk factors we’ve already known about. Pedestrian deaths grew more quickly in urban areas, specifically on suburban “arterials”, and they were more likely to occur at night. Something new though- the study results didn’t support the idea that distracted walking is a key cause of pedestrian deaths.
Pedestrian fatalities increased much more during the study period at night and at mid-block crossings.