A new study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) states that the 40-inch tall hoods and blunted front ends found on many of the trucks and SUVs on the roads are dramatically more likely to result in pedestrian-related fatalities. In fact, people are nearly 45 percent more likely to be killed by these machines than a lower, sloped-hood form of transportation.
Whereas other studies in the past have been able to draw similar conclusions related to SUV accidents, this IIHS study specifically targeted vehicles that feature a hood height that is 40 inches or more, such as half-ton pickup trucks and full-size SUVs. According to the Detroit Free Press, the study also opted to exclude vehicles that feature an automatic emergency braking system, which is an increasingly popular safety feature employed by automakers. The data set included over 18,000 pedestrian crashes, which were analyzed and controlled for factors such as speed, as well as age and sex of the victim. According to Reuters, the IIHS found that when a tall and upright vehicle like a pickup truck is involved in a pedestrian accident, the pedestrian is 43.6 percent more likely to be fatally wounded. Sloped hoods don’t help much when a vehicle is near that 40-inch hood height however, with these highly styled machines increasing the risk of death to 45 percent. For comparison, smaller SUVs with a blunted front end, such as the Mazda CX-9 or Subaru Ascent only raise that figure to 26 percent.
Those numbers have real world impacts. Pedestrian deaths have been on the rise since their lowest point in 2009, increasing by 80 percent to account for 17 percent of all traffic deaths. A total of 7400 pedestrians were killed in 2021 alone. While the IIHS doesn’t have any regulatory power, this agency is advocating for automakers to change course. More specifically, the IIHS wants to see hood heights come down, and for automakers to leave the upright and imposing styling of today behind. Of course this problem isn’t just associated with trucks or SUVs, as even our passenger cars have grown dramatically in recent years. Part of that growth is the result of increasingly stringent safety standards, but automakers have also used larger machines to skirt emissions regulations for some time. As EVs eliminate the need for such trickery, perhaps we’ll start to see more low-slung offerings hit the scene. That would also require buyers to adjust their habits, however.
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