Despite designs of SUVs changing considerably over the past two decades, late-models still appear to be more likely than cars to kill pedestrians, a new study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has found.
The number of people killed in motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. has fallen from more than 50,000 in 1980 to 36,560 in 2018. However, pedestrians now account for nearly a fifth of all traffic fatalities — a proportion not seen since the early 1980s.
“The proportion of SUVs in the U.S. fleet has grown dramatically, so it’s discouraging that they still seem to be more deadly to pedestrians than cars are,” said IIHS Statistician Sam Monfort, lead author of the study.
Analyzing a sample of 79 crashes from three urban areas in Michigan, the researchers found SUVs caused more serious injuries than cars when impacts occurred at greater than 19 miles per hour.
At speeds of 20-39 mph, 30 percent of crashes with SUVs resulted in a pedestrian fatality, compared with 23 percent involving cars. At 40 mph and higher, all three crashes with SUVs killed the pedestrian compared with 54 percent involving cars.
The IIHS says that, because the sample size was small and limited to one geographic region, more research is required to see whether all of the findings hold up in a larger study.
“Our findings provide more evidence that manufacturers need to make design changes to help combat the increase in pedestrian fatalities now that more of the vehicles on the road are SUVs,” added IIHS Senior Research Engineer Becky Mueller.