IIHS Says Trucks, SUVs Are More Dangerous For Pedestrians

Trucks and SUVs with tall front ends are more dangerous for pedestrians, according to new research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

An IIHS study of nearly 18,000 pedestrian crashes found that SUVs and vans with a hood height greater than 40 inches are about 45 percent more likely to cause fatalities in pedestrian crashes than cars and other vehicles with a hood height of 30 inches or less and a sloping profile.

However, even vehicles with hood heights between 30 and 40 inches, but having blunt or more vertical front end, increases the risk to pedestrians, the research says.

“Some of today’s vehicles are pretty intimidating when you’re passing in front of them in a crosswalk,” IIHS President David Harkey said. “These results tell us our instincts are correct: More aggressive-looking vehicles can indeed do more harm.”

According to the researchers, pedestrian crash deaths have risen 80 percent since hitting their low in 2009. Nearly 7,400 pedestrians, over 20 people a day, have lost their lives in 2021 after being struck by a vehicle.

Although speeding and poor road design have contributed to the increase in pedestrian deaths, safety experts have also pointed to the connection to the growing portion of the U.S. vehicle fleet made up of pickups and SUVs.

While especially tall, boxy front-end designs have become popular among full-size trucks, the aggressive design serves no function.

“Manufacturers can make vehicles less dangerous to pedestrians by lowering the front end of the hood and angling the grille and hood to create a sloped profile,” IIHS Senior Research Transportation Engineer Wen Hu said in a statement. “There’s no functional benefit to these massive, blocky fronts.”

Vehicles with front ends over 35 inches high, especially those with front ends that don’t slope gently downwards, were more likely to cause severe head, torso and hip injuries, according to the IIHS report. Shorter pedestrians are especially at risk, the Institute said.

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