Over the past couple of decades, more and more sport utility vehicles rolled off dealer lots onto the roads and highways. The preference by consumers for SUVs seems logical from a functionality perspective, but it comes with a potential deadly side effect for pedestrians.

At the same time, distracted driving continues to plague U.S. roads. This only further increases the dangers faced by pedestrians. Some hope that advanced vehicle safety features provide the answer.

Surge in pedestrian deaths

According to data from the Governors Highway Safety Association, the number of people on foot killed across the country in motor vehicle accidents in 2018 was higher than in nearly three decades. Similarly, pedestrian deaths in accidents involving SUVs jumped a staggering 81% from 2009 to 2018, per data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Bigger vehicles, more severe impacts

When hit by a small vehicle, a pedestrian may experience the most impact in their legs or hips. They may also flip onto the hood of the vehicle. When hit by a tall SUV, a pedestrian may experience the greatest impact in their head or torso where their vital organs are. Instead of flipping onto the hood, the pedestrian might slide under the SUV.

Advanced technology, not-so-advanced results

Consumer Reports explains that one study conducted by AAA found some new vehicle technologies that tout pedestrian safety to seriously lack the ability to truly keep people safe.

Test vehicles driven at 20 miles per hour and equipped with systems to detect pedestrians and automatically stop the vehicles were reviewed. In daytime conditions, the vehicles only avoided hitting an adult-sized dummy in a crosswalk in 40% of scenarios.