Large Vehicles and Pedestrian Deaths: how protecting your family can harm others

black car speeding in background

Bigger cars may be safer for you and your family, but a new study done by economist Justin Tyndall of the University of Hawaii found a growing trend between larger vehicles and pedestrian deaths. The average vehicle size has undergone a sustained increase over the past 20 years and Tyndall argues, “If the popularity of large vehicles continues to rise there is likely to be a corresponding increase in pedestrian fatalities.”

From 2009 to 2019, the annual number of pedestrians killed by cars rose at least 51 percent. Tyndall analyzed this data and found that, from 2000 to 2019, hypothetically replacing SUVs with standard cars in U.S. cities could have prevented nearly 3,300 pedestrian deaths, and replacing all light trucks (such as SUVs, pick-ups, minivans) would have averted more than 8,100 fatalities — put another way, it would have avoided 10% of all pedestrian deaths.

Though larger vehicles may be safer for their own passengers, Tyndall found that “driving a larger vehicle offloads fatality risks from the occupants to other road users.” As expected, heavier cars are harder to stop and have more force on impact when they come in contact with pedestrians than standard cars. These larger models of cars hit people higher on the body, so there is a greater chance of serious injury to the torso or head instead of leg injuries.

How do we fix this? Tyndall’s work suggests the urgent need for change in policy, street design, and tech innovation focused on this growing safety issue. One way policies can change to improve pedestrian safety is by reducing speed limits throughout crowded, busy city streets; the slower the legal speed limit, the more time drivers have to slow down or stop before hitting a pedestrian. In addition, innovative street design along with speed limits can protect pedestrians by constructing streets for many different types and speeds of travelers, such as bikers and walkers. Car developers can also adopt stronger general pedestrian-detection and vehicle-response features into their larger car models to prevent deaths as well.

Unfortunately, there is no single quick fix to pedestrian deaths, but by recognizing the role vehicle size plays in the growing pedestrian fatalities rates, city leaders and urban innovators can take steps in the right direction to establishing a safer America.

With 25 years of experience, Custodio & Dubey LLP’s skilled Los Angeles personal injury lawyers have recovered millions of dollars for individuals and families who were harmed in accidents that could have been prevented.

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