Life in California has many perks, and one of them is the favorable weather that makes it easy for residents to move about on foot. Yet, pedestrian deaths are rising across California and the nation, and the growing popularity of sport utility vehicles is contributing to the uptick.
According to J.D. Power, SUVs are typically taller and heavier than typical sedans. They also have higher leading edges. This enhances risks for those traveling on foot because it means the brunt of the force of the SUV strikes them higher up on their bodies than a traditional car would.
As of 2009, SUVs only accounted for about a fifth of all vehicles out on U.S. roads. By the summer of 2020, SUV sales accounted for 70% of all new cars sold across the nation. As SUV sales increased, the number of pedestrian fatalities increased alongside them.
SUV-on-pedestrian crash statistics
Over the past 10 years, the number of pedestrians dying in crashes increased steadily year after year, rising a total of 53% within that span. Nowadays, car-on-pedestrian wrecks cause more than a fifth of all U.S. traffic deaths, and the majority of those involve SUVs. Research also shows that, when SUVs hit pedestrians when traveling at above 19 mph, those pedestrians are much more likely to suffer a serious injury than they would be if struck by a standard passenger car moving at the same speed. When SUVs move at 40 mph and hit pedestrians, 100% of those hit die.
Some automakers who fabricate SUVs are making moves to change their body styles to make them less of a threat to pedestrians. However, these modifications have yet to have a positive impact on pedestrian death rates.