IIHS: Tall SUVs Pose Danger For Cyclists

But what’s to be done about it?

A study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety cited SUVs as particularly dangerous for cyclists because of the overall height of their front end. While not a government agency, IIHS has been incredibly influential on auto industry safety standards, for example pushing for those blindingly bright LED headlights you no doubt love to see coming the opposite direction at night.

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According to the study, because SUVs have taller front ends, they tend to hit bicyclists higher up on their bodies, which in turn will often cause the rider to fall down and possibly get run over. That’s obviously not a great situation for anyone involved, plus cyclists often hit their head if they fall onto the ground instead of being flipped onto the vehicle’s hood. Pickups weren’t included because the available data set for trucks hitting bicyclists was deemed too small.


Landing on the hood of an SUV might sound worse to you, but government safety standards have been changed to make that more ideal. If you’ve noticed many vehicles, in particular trucks and SUVs, seem far taller in the past few years, you’re no imagining things. There’s now a regulation dictating a certain amount of space from the top of an engine and the hood line, allowing the hood to crumple and “catch” a pedestrian or cyclist without the person smacking the very hard powerplant.

And here comes the irony: by requiring that extra space so people aren’t injured from landing on an engine, regulators have made SUV front ends even taller, which is exactly what IIHS is fretting over. That means people are less likely to be thrown onto the hood, so why is there extra space to protect them from the engine?

This could very well be described as yet another case of unintended consequences with the best of intentions. The dizzying number of safety regulations, not to mention those impacting fuel efficiency and emissions, a modern road-legal car is subject to is something most people have absolutely no concept of. Yet people see the results: cars are getting larger, automakers are trying to find every way possible to shed weight, plus new vehicles and components are far more expensive than even a few years ago.

In the end, with so many tweaks for safety, there are bound to be some conflicting measures like this one. It’s enough for one to wish for those carefree days of past decades when car designs and life in general seemed simpler. However, we can’t roll the clock back. But lawmakers, regulators, and the auto industry can assess what might be done about the mess that’s been created before complicating it further.

Images via GM, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz

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