More Americans and Tennessee residents are purchasing large SUVs, as opposed to smaller passenger cars, and a study shows that pedestrians are experiencing more injuries and fatalities in car-on-pedestrian crashes because of it. SUVs have a higher front profile than traditional passenger cars, and this means heightened injury and fatality risks for pedestrians.

Per J.D. Power, SUV sales now account for 70% of all new car sales across the United States. In 2009, only about 21% of vehicles on the road were SUVs.

Study findings

The number of traffic fatalities across the United States decreased substantially between 1980 and 2018. Yet, over the last 10 years, pedestrian deaths have increased year after year, rising 53% within this span. Now, car-on-pedestrian crashes cause more than a fifth of all U.S. traffic deaths.

Injury risks are also greater when SUVs strike pedestrians. Larger, taller vehicles tend to strike pedestrians higher up on their bodies than smaller cars. This increases the risk of internal injuries to major organs. While some SUV manufacturers have updated their designs to reduce associated risks, such efforts have not proved effective thus far.

Speed considerations

How fast an SUV is traveling also helps determine how much a threat it poses to pedestrians. When cars travel at 40 mph and strike pedestrians, pedestrians survive in about 46% of instances. When an SUV strikes a pedestrian while traveling at the same speed, pedestrians die in 100% of crashes.

Pedestrians should not count on motorists to exercise care and watch out for them. As Americans continue to buy more SUVs, the dangers for pedestrians may continue to increase.