If you’ve been out on the roads and highways lately, it might seem like today’s cars, pickups, and SUVs are getting bigger and bigger. You’re not seeing things – they are. In fact, a Slate article on the very subject recently put together a staggering amount of statistics and studies demonstrating just how large our vehicles are becoming, and just how dangerous they are to everyone and everything around them.
Per Slate, “Your giant car, study after study shows, is remarkably dangerous to pedestrians. The heavier a car, the more likely it is to kill a pedestrian if it strikes them. And trucks and SUVs are getting heavier.” It’s not just a vehicle’s weight, however. The ever-increasing size of trucks and SUVs also makes accidents more severe or even fatal and creates bigger blind spots than ever before.
The number of fatal traffic accidents has increased as vehicles get bigger
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a report in late 2021 showing the largest six-month increase in traffic fatalities ever recorded. Over 20,000 Americans died in car and truck accidents in the first half of 2021 – an increase of over 18 percent in 2019. A significant portion of this increase is related to the size of today’s vehicles. Justin Tyndell, author of a 2021 report published in the Economic of Transportation, estimates that “replacing the growth in Sport Utility Vehicles with cars would have averted 1,100 pedestrian deaths [between 2000 and 2019. He found] no evidence that the shift towards larger vehicles improved aggregate motorist safety.”
This information isn’t new. Data published in the Federal Register’s 2015 review of traffic accidents found that “pedestrians are 2-3 times more likely to suffer a fatality when struck by an SUV or pickup truck than when struck by a passenger car.” A 2020 report by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee found that over the course of 40 years (1977-2016), “there were significant increases in pedestrian fatalities… involving large vehicles (e.g., pickup trucks, vans, and SUVs) (from 22% to 44%).”
The weight has increased for cars, trucks, and SUVs
Slate points out that today’s cars can weigh over 4,000 pounds. Full-sized pickup trucks can weigh up to 5,000 pounds, which is a full 24% higher than 20 years ago. The advent of electric vehicles and their batteries can make vehicles even heavier. The electric Hummer EV weighs over 9,000 pounds, which is three times heavier than a Honda Civic. In a car accident between a Hummer and a Civic, this weight disparity would likely result in catastrophic injury to the occupants of the Civic.
Today’s cars and light trucks are taller than they used to be
Pickups and SUVs are also getting taller, which includes the front grilles. The higher the grille and hood of the car, the more difficult it is for the driver to see objects directly in front of them. As Slate notes, “A grille that’s more than 50 inches off the ground…makes it more likely that a pedestrian will be struck in the head by a collision.”
Further, if a driver can’t see right in front of them, they are at risk of causing a “frontover” accident. Frontover accidents occur when a driver fails to notice an object or person directly in front of their vehicle and drives into or over it. These accidents commonly involve small children.
In a well-publicized 2019 experiment, WTHR News tested the front blind zones of several large SUVs. In one supervised test, Indiana resident Lindsey Berry sat in the driver’s seat of her Cadillac Escalade while children lined up single-file in front of her vehicle. A total of 13 children lined up before Berry was able to spot one in front of her SUV. As she told WTHR:
I’m in shock and I think this is very alarming. I like having that vision being up high, but at no point did I realize it was 15 feet in front of me that was blocked. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact there’s 13 children lined up in front of me right now. It’s a mother’s worst nightmare.
The front blind zone issue isn’t just with the Escalade, however. WTHR tested a variety of minivans, SUVs, and pickup trucks, and found most have a front blind zone between five and 10 feet. Although some vehicles have safety technology like front cameras, they are not mandatory, and drivers should never rely solely on cameras to ensure all areas around their vehicles are clear.
Upon publication of the report, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said, “This is a crisis. More than 20,000 people died on U.S. roads in the first six months of 2021, leaving countless loved ones behind. We cannot and should not accept these fatalities as simply a part of everyday life in America.”
Today’s passenger vehicles handle worse than ever before
Even the world’s best driver cannot get behind the wheel of an unsafe vehicle and make it safe. In fact, Consumer Reports (CR) reveals their own testing uncovered that larger vehicles have trouble avoiding accidents and collisions. Their senior director of auto testing, Jake Fisher, said, “Pickups and other large vehicles routinely do worse in our emergency handling and braking tests.” CR went on to note that when cars and pickup trucks collide, the driver of the passenger car is 1.59 times more likely to die than in an accident with two passenger vehicles.
The takeaway from Slate’s article is that, although gigantic trucks and SUVs may give a driver a sense of security, they can cause severe or fatal traffic accidents due to their weight and large blind spots. Smaller cars, pedestrians, and cyclists are at risk when sharing the road with these large vehicles, and it’s important to protect yourself if involved in an accident. An experienced lawyer can help.
If you or a loved one were hurt in a car accident that wasn’t your fault, call the Charlotte personal injury attorneys at Price, Petho & Associates at 704-372-2160 or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation. We represent injury clients on a contingency fee basis. Serving Charlotte, Rockingham, Rutherfordton, North Carolina, and South Carolina.