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Study finds big jump in SUV-pedestrian fatalities in last 8 years

SUV's are extremely popular. Between 2009 and 2016, the number of passenger vehicles registered, excluding SUVs, decreased by a little less than 1 percent. Over the same period, the number of SUVs registered grew by 37 percent. SUVs and light trucks now account for 67 percent of the American auto market.

Unfortunately, SUVs are responsible for a growing number of pedestrian fatalities. The nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found a huge spike in fatal SUV-pedestrian collisions between 2009 and 2016.

During those eight years, fatal pedestrian crashes involving SUVs grew by 81 percent. That's 3.1-percent higher than the increase in such crashes involving all other vehicle types combined. This confirms a previously recognized trend.

"Although larger, heavier vehicles provide more protection to their occupants and thus have lower driver death rates per registered vehicle than smaller cars," according to the Institute, "previous research has found that SUVs and other light trucks and vans were associated with increased risks of severely injuring or killing pedestrians in an impact when compared with cars."

SUVs can be especially deadly to pedestrians

The basic shape of an SUV makes it more dangerous to pedestrians. Since they are taller and their front-ends are squarer, SUVs are more likely than other vehicles to strike pedestrians in the head or chest, as opposed to the legs.

One approach to reducing the risk is to "soften up" the front end of the vehicle. This could be done by adding a "pedestrian airbag" that would inflate when the vehicle hits a pedestrian, potentially preventing the pedestrian from striking the vehicle's roof pillars, which can be especially dangerous. Adding rearview cameras and brighter headlights could also help.

Other factors contributing to fatal pedestrian accidents

The study's authors don't know exactly what has caused the jump in SUV-pedestrian fatalities, but it's worth noting that fatal pedestrian crashes have themselves risen in recent years. In 2016, pedestrian deaths were at their highest rate since 1990. Per capita, the greatest increase in fatalities was among pedestrians between 20 and 69.

That could be the result of more walking among people in that age group. Between 2005 and 2015, the estimated number of Americans reporting walking as their primary mode of transportation rose from 3.3 million to 4.2 million.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, New York City had the highest number of pedestrian fatalities in 2016.

In order to prevent these tragedies, every driver needs to be vigilant about watching for pedestrians. If you or a loved one has been hit by a car, truck or SUV, contacting a personal injury attorney can help ensure that you receive full, fair compensation for your injuries and losses.

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