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Heavier vehicles cause more serious injuries


Look around the Colorado roads you’re traveling the next time you’re driving. I think you’ll find that you’re surrounded by trucks and SUVs – maybe you’re even an owner of one or more. In 2021, SUVs and light trucks accounted for around 86% of new vehicle registrations in Colorado, second only to Vermont. Seriously, we have a lot of F150s. But is our love of big vehicles making our roads more dangerous? Absolutely. Let’s dig into why.

Children are more vulnerable to large vehicle strikes

A study published in the Journal of Safety Research found that child pedestrians are eight times more likely to die when struck by an SUV than when struck by a passenger car. Passenger cars were involved in 62% of children-involved pedestrian and cyclist crashes among the 23,000 crashes studied yet were only responsible for 19% of the fatalities. SUVs, on the other hand, were involved in just 16.9% of the crashes, but 40% of the pedestrian deaths among children. The results are similar for pickup trucks: involved in less than 6% of crashes, pickup trucks were involved in 12.6% of pedestrian deaths overall.

Taller vehicles are more likely to strike a pedestrian’s head, neck and chest

“Larger vehicles are involved in pedestrian and pedal cyclist crashes with more severe injuries that result in higher hospital charges,” said the study’s authors. Many studies theorize that this is because a heavier vehicle is going to cause more severe impacts, and thus, more severe damage to property and to human bodies. For pedestrians, a bigger or taller vehicle may mean that the vehicle strikes the more vulnerable torso (or head, for children) first, rather than hips or legs.

The insurance industry’s own nonprofit scientific and education arm, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), has found similar results. Today’s late-model SUVs are still more likely to kill pedestrians than cars, despite design changes to make them safer to those outside of the vehicles.

Recent design improvements have helped reduce injuries

For a while in the 1990s, SUVs were more dangerous than passenger cars to the other vehicles involved in a collision, with occupants far more likely to die in crashes with SUVs than with other passenger cars. But with more recent design changes, data from 2013-2016 shows that car occupants were only slightly more likely to die in a collision with a newer SUV than with cars of the same age – SUVs are still more dangerous, but less so than before.

Trucks, however, have lagged behind SUVs in making safety improvements. This same data reflects that pickup trucks are still 159% more likely to cause a fatality in a crash with a car as compared to crashes with another passenger car, reflecting no significant change from nearly 30 years earlier.

Colorado SUV and truck drivers may have to start compensating for the increased risks to other drivers and to pedestrians and cyclists. The Colorado legislature is currently considering a bill that would add a registration fee to heavier vehicles, like SUVs and trucks, because those vehicles are more dangerous to pedestrians, bicyclists, and, in some cases, other vehicles. The Vulnerable Road User Protection Enterprise would raise up to $20 million in funding for projects to create safer roads through infrastructure improvements like bike lanes and automated speed cameras.

Many drivers feel more secure in SUVs or trucks, because they are bigger and the occupants are seated higher. They do tend to be safer for their own occupants. But for pedestrians, cyclists, and occupants of passenger cars, these vehicles are absolutely more dangerous when they cause a crash. Because of the severity of these crashes, my clients who have been injured by SUV, truck or semi-truck drivers tend to have more severe injuries, many of which are forever injuries.

I can help

If you have been injured by a negligent driver, I can help. While you focus on the important work of recovery, I will be fighting for justice and compensation for your losses. Consultations are free, and there is no obligation to do anything other than talk about your options. Call 303-339-8846. You can also schedule your free consultation with me at my office, at your home, or on Zoom/Facetime/Webex by clicking here