Taller Vehicle Hoods Linked to Higher Pedestrian Fatality Rates
Pedestrians are among the most vulnerable road users. They don't have the protection of a vehicle frame, seat belt, or airbag. Unlike bicyclists and motorcyclists, pedestrians don't typically wear protective gear such as helmets. Pedestrian accidents are often the cause of speeding, distracted driving, running red lights, impaired driving, and aggressive driving. However, the design of many motor vehicles increases the risk of pedestrian fatalities, especially those with taller vehicle hoods.
What is the link between taller vehicle hoods and increased pedestrian deaths?
Recent research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) highlights the increased danger to pedestrians from vehicles with high front ends, particularly those with blunt profiles. The study analyzed nearly 18,000 pedestrian crashes. It reveals that pickup trucks, SUVs, and vans with hood heights over 40 inches pose a 45% greater fatality risk in pedestrian collisions compared to lower, sloping-profile cars.
David Harkey, IIHS President, referenced the intimidating nature of these vehicles, especially when facing them in a crosswalk. "These results tell us our instincts are correct: More aggressive-looking vehicles can indeed do more harm," he said.
Pedestrian accidents are on the rise
Pedestrian fatalities have alarmingly risen by 80% since 2009, with over 7,400 deaths in 2021 alone. This increase is partially attributed to the growing number of larger vehicles on U.S. roads.
Over the past three decades, the average U.S. passenger vehicle has become significantly larger and heavier, with many vehicles exceeding 40 inches in hood height. For the study, IIHS researchers examined 17,897 crashes involving pedestrians and a single-passenger vehicle. They analyzed front-end measurements of 2,958 unique vehicle models, excluding those equipped with pedestrian automatic emergency braking systems. The study controlled for variables such as speed limit and pedestrian demographics.
The findings were stark. Vehicles with hoods more than 40 inches high and a grille slope of 65 degrees or less were 45% more likely to cause pedestrian fatalities. Blunt front ends on these taller vehicles increased the fatality risk even further. Harkey emphasizes the need for automakers to consider the seriousness of these findings, especially regarding the height and shape of SUVs and pickup trucks.
How the design of taller vehicle hoods affects pedestrian injuries
The increasing size of vehicles in the U.S. fleet is a significant factor in the rising pedestrian fatalities. This necessitates a reevaluation of vehicle design for pedestrian safety.
Wen Hu, IIHS Senior Research Transportation Engineer, suggests manufacturers can reduce this danger by designing vehicles with lower, sloped front ends, as large and "blocky" fronts offer no functional benefit.
For medium-height vehicles (30-40 inches), a sloped front significantly reduces the risk compared to blunt fronts. Vehicles with flat hoods (angles of 15 degrees or less) also showed a 25% increase in fatality risk, regardless of their height and front-end shape.
In a detailed analysis of 121 crashes by the International Center for Automotive Medicine Pedestrian Consortium, IIHS further investigated how different vehicle geometries affect pedestrian injuries.
The study divided taller vehicle hoods into two height categories based on a hood's leading edge. Findings indicated that vehicles taller than 35 inches generally caused more severe injuries, particularly head injuries. Vertical front ends prove to be more dangerous than sloped ones.
Tall and blunt vehicles predominantly caused torso injuries, often throwing pedestrians forward. Tall and sloped vehicles tended to roll them onto the hood. The severity of injuries also increased for pedestrians shorter than the height of the striking vehicle.
If you were hit by a car in the Bronx or Valhalla, get Giampa Law
While taller vehicle hoods contribute to higher pedestrian fatality rates, pedestrian accidents are usually the result of human error. If you or a loved one was hit by a motor vehicle while walking, an experienced pedestrian accident lawyer at Giampa Law can help you seek justice and accountability.
Pedestrian accidents often result in severe injuries, including broken bones, head injuries, brain injuries, and spinal cord injuries. Many collisions involving pedestrians are also fatal.
Our law firm knows how to thoroughly investigate pedestrian accidents, deal with insurance companies, and fight for the maximum compensation our clients deserve. We also don't charge any upfront fees for our services and only get paid if we win your case. To get the justice you deserve, contact us online for a free consultation. You can also call our law offices in the Bronx and Valhalla.