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SUVs Increasingly Deadly to Pedestrians

News report says size, design and popularity of SUVs are raising the body count

An SUV driving through a cross walk


SUVs could be at least twice as likely as cars to kill the walkers, joggers and children they hit.

Sport utility vehicles are largely responsible for an increasing number of pedestrian deaths, according to an investigative report by the Detroit Free Press and USA Today Network out Tuesday.

About 6,000 pedestrians died in 2016, up 46 percent since 2009, and analysis of federal data by the news outlets showed that SUVs “are the constant in the increase and account for a steadily growing proportion of the deaths.”

The analysis showed a 69 percent increase in SUV involvement in pedestrian fatalities. Earlier studies by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also blamed SUVs for the higher death rate, concluding that "pedestrians are two to three times more likely to suffer a fatality when struck by an SUV or pickup than … by a passenger car."

Because an SUV’s front end is higher and blunter than a car’s, it is more likely to hit a pedestrian in the chest or head, impacts that are more often lethal, according to reporting by the news organizations.

Federal safety regulators, according to the report, have been aware that an SUV’s size and design make it "at least twice as likely as cars to kill the walkers, joggers and children they hit."

Auto manufacturers have opposed a federal proposal to add calculations of the risk to pedestrians in vehicle safety ratings, the newspapers report. SUV safety measures such as automatic crash avoidance and emergency braking systems could save hundreds of pedestrians a year but are not mandatory nor widely used. Most automakers have pledged to install low-speed automatic braking systems by 2022, according to NHTSA.

Meanwhile, SUV sales continue to soar, surpassing sedans in 2014, with pickups and SUVs now accounting for 60 percent of new vehicle sales. Both Ford and Fiat Chrysler have discontinued sales of most passenger cars.

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