Sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and ‘crossovers’ continue to grow in popularity. The rate of new SUV sales hit a record high in 2020. According to data from Car and Driver Magazine, more than half of all new automobile sales in 2020 were SUVs or crossover vehicles, despite the risk of SUV rollover crashes.
SUVs and other large vehicles pose a far greater risk to pedestrians and bicyclists than automobiles.
SUVS are 25% More Likely to Cause Fatality in a Pedestrian Collision
In 2020, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that SUVs were more likely to cause fatal injuries in pedestrian collisions and bicycle accidents than passenger cars. The study estimates that a pedestrian accident is 25% more likely to be fatal if the vehicle involved in the crash is an SUV or a crossover rather than a standard-sized passenger car. The risk of catastrophic pedestrian injuries was also far higher with a SUV.
The Percentage of SUVs on the Road Nationwide is Rising Rapidly
In 2009, approximately 21% of all vehicles actively registered in the United States were sport utility vehicles. As of 2018, that number hit 30%. Now, nearly one in three motor vehicles registered in the United States is an SUV or a crossover vehicle.
Speed is a Significant Factor in Pedestrian Collisions
Pedestrian collisions are always dangerous. But, not all pedestrian accidents are equally likely to result in a catastrophic injury or a death. Ultimately, the amount of force from a vehicle is the single biggest factor in determining the severity of a pedestrian crash. SUVs and crossovers pose a greater safety threat to pedestrians than smaller vehicles due to their large size and weight. In a crash they deliver far more force when traveling the same speed as a passenger car.
Speed is always a significant factor. Few pedestrian accident fatalities occur when vehicles are traveling less than 20 miles per hour. However, when speeds are 40 miles per hour or higher, nearly all SUV / pedestrian collisions result in fatalities.
The reason is straight forward physics. The amount of energy increases geometrically with increased speed; specifically by the square of the speed. For example, the amount of kinetic energy in a vehicle at 40 miles per hour is four times the energy of a vehicle at 20 mph. Raise the speed to 60 mph and the amount of energy is 8 times greater than at 20 mph. Raise the speed to 70 mph and the resulting available energy is 12 times greater than at 20 mph.
That’s the real reason why speed kills.
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