March 18, 2022 -- Pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles, and minivans, when compared to cars, are more likely to strike a pedestrian while their drivers are making turns, a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says.
The design of the larger vehicles may be a factor, according to the study.
“It’s possible that the size, shape or location of the A-pillars that support the roof on either side of the windshield could make it harder for drivers of these larger vehicles to see crossing pedestrians when they are turning,” Wen Hu, PhD, senior research transportation engineer for the institute, said in a news release.
But an in-depth study of A-pillars has not been done, the institute said, noting that other design elements of larger vehicles may be a factor, such as “high ride heights and long front ends.”
The growing popularity of SUVs and pickups may also affect the pedestrian strike rates, the institute said.
Larger vehicles account for a bigger share of vehicle sales, according to the new research. Pickups, SUVs, and vans made up 47% of all new vehicle sales in 2009, The Associated Press said, citing Motorintelligence.com. But in 2021, light trucks made up more than three-quarters of all new vehicle sales.
Previous studies had shown larger vehicles caused more severe injuries than cars when they struck pedestrians, the institute said. The latest study focused on different kinds of crashes.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit group funded by auto insurance companies, looked at federal statistics about pedestrian deaths caused by different vehicles making left and right turns at intersections, then compared them to deaths caused by vehicles not making turns.
For left turns, SUVs were about twice as likely as a car to cause a pedestrian death, vans and minivans were three times as likely as a car, and pickup trucks four times as likely as a car.
For right turns, pickups were 89% more likely to be involved in a pedestrian death than a car, the study said, while SUVs were 63% more likely to be involved.
For non-turning situations, “SUVs and pickups were associated with 51% and 25% greater odds than cars of killing a pedestrian walking or running along the road versus a fatal straight-on crash with a crossing pedestrian,” the report said.
The institute also cited information about pedestrian deaths in North Carolina from 2010 to 2018 that showed SUVs and pickups were more likely to hit pedestrians while making left turns than left-turning cars. But the North Carolina information showed no major difference between cars and the larger vehicles when it came to injuring pedestrians during right-hand turns.
“We already know that larger vehicles cause more severe injuries when they strike pedestrians,” said Jessica Cicchino, PhD, the institute’s vice president of research. “The link between these vehicle types and certain common pedestrian crashes points to another way that the increase in SUVs on the roads might be changing the crash picture.”
About 6,500 pedestrians were killed by vehicles in 2020, a 59% increase over 2009, the study said. Almost 55,000 pedestrians were injured by vehicles in 2020.
Automakers Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis declined to comment on the study, according to the AP.