SUVs Kill Pedestrians—and They Have for a Long Time

While much focus is on the future of autonomous vehicles, the increase in pedestrian deaths related to SUVs remains a largely ignored issue.

Read Time: 2 minutes

July 15, 2019, 5:00 AM PDT

By Camille Fink


Sports Utility Vehicle

Lissandra Melo / Shutterstock

Recent debates about self-driving vehicles and public safety have overshadowed the long-standing issue of SUVs, writes Henry Grabar. The overall number of traffic fatalities decreased in 2018, but pedestrian and cyclist deaths are on the rise. More SUVs are on the road, and that is part of the problem, says Grabar:

In February, the Governors Highway Safety Association estimated that more than 6,200 pedestrians died in 2018—the highest number in a generation, and an increase of 50 percent from 2009. The GHSA says SUVs are partially responsible: Their involvement in fatal crashes is up 50 percent, compared with 30 percent for sedans.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has known for years that the weight, higher bumpers, and limited visibility of SUVs mean pedestrians are more likely to be killed when struck by the vehicles. "The regulators did nothing. If another product saw its nonuser death count spike by 50 percent in 10 years, consumers would revolt and Congress would make a big show of getting to the bottom of it. Automobiles are different," argues Grabar.

Regulation in Europe—where SUV sales are up, but pedestrian deaths decreased by over a third between 2007 and 2016— could provide some clues for the U.S., notes Grabar. Safety assessments of European vehicles include a "vulnerable road users" criterion. "In America, by contrast, NHTSA ratings have three primary categories: frontal crash, side crash, and rollover. What happens to the people you hit? Who knows."

Friday, July 5, 2019 in Slate

Green bike lane with flexible delineators and textures paint in Hoboken, New Jersey

America’s Best New Bike Lanes

PeopleForBikes highlights some of the most exciting new bike infrastructure projects completed in 2022.

January 31, 2023 - PeopleforBikes

Walkable, mixed-use neighborhood in Barcelona, Spain

Conspiracy Theorists Discover the 15-Minute City

USA Today debunks the false claim that the United Nations’ call for enabling 15-minute cities is a coded plan to institute ‘climate change lockdowns.’

February 8, 2023 - USA Today

Aerial view of MBTA commuter rail station in Concord, Massachusetts among green trees

Massachusetts Zoning Reform Law Reaches First Deadline

Cities and towns had until January 31 to submit their draft plans for rezoning areas near transit stations to comply with a new state law.

February 1, 2023 - Streetsblog Mass

Washington

Washington Could Legalize Single-Staircase Buildings

Supporters of ‘point access blocks,’ which are common in Europe and other parts of the world, say the design maximizes living space and lowers the cost of construction.

February 8 - The Urbanist

View of downtown San Francisco from top of windy street at sunset with Coit Tower in distance

San Francisco Housing Plan Gets State Approval

The city cleared a major hurdle as its housing plan, which paves the way for 82,000 new homes by 2030, is certified by the state.

February 8 - KALW

Green Line, Los Angeles

Rail Transit Plans Would Connect L.A.’s South Bay to the Regional Rail System

Two new transit extensions promise several new routes for South Bay residents to access the Los Angeles region’s transit system.

February 8 - The Source