A new study by researchers at the University of Illinois at Springfield found that large vehicles like SUVs are dramatically more dangerous than passenger cars to young pedestrians. Using crash and hospital records to examine “the relationship between striking vehicle type and medical outcomes of pedestrian and pedalcyclist cases,” the study ultimately found evidence that “children are eight times more likely to die when struck by a SUV compared to those struck by a passenger car.”
The study found further that while pickup trucks “were the striking vehicle” in only 5.6% of crashes involving pedestrians or cyclists, they played a role in 12.6 of deaths, with SUVs accounting for a similar overrepresentation: they “struck 14.7% of the pedestrians and pedalcyclists investigated here, but were involved in 25.4% of the fatalities.”
An analysis of the study by Streetsblognoted the obvious: one reason large vehicles are more dangerous to children is, well, their large size, which poses visibility issues to their drivers. As a 2017 report by that publication attests, “the high, blocky front end, which pushes people below the wheels instead of over the hood” makes SUVs so deadly to pedestrians, with a 2015 study finding that pedestrians “are more than three times as likely to be killed when struck by an SUV than when struck by a regular passenger vehicle.” The new study points to the heightened danger for children, for whom those visibility issues pose an obvious risk.
The University of Illinois study also found other disparities, noting that Black pedestrians and cyclists were overrepresented in the crash victim statistics. The data specifically showed that “Black residents represented 27 percent of the victims of crashes despite comprising just 14.2 percent of the statewide population,” as Streetsblog described. In addition to that, the researchers found that crashes involving pedestrians or cyclists are more likely to go underreported when the victims are Black.
In an interview with Streetsblog, one car safety advocate said that the study reveals the deadly consequences of car manufacturers gradually “creat[ing] demand for vehicles that are not practical just to fulfill the desires they have engineered.” As the study’s authors note, the data shows that “the greatest burden” of this effort by manufacturers is on the vulnerable.
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