Large Vehicles Are More Dangerous to Pedestrians While Turning

New Crosswalk ahead sign set to the right side of the picture with roadway out of focus to the left.

Motorists who drive trucks, SUVs, and vans need to be particularly mindful of safety

Fatal pedestrian accidents have increased markedly over the last decade — in Maine, for example, there were a record 20 pedestrians killed last year, compared to just 9 in 2012 — and a key factor is the growing popularity of large vehicles such as SUVs. In part, that's because of the larger size and higher profile of these vehicles, but a new study reveals that they're also more likely to hit pedestrians in the first place, particularly at intersections.

Researchers from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that the odds of a fatal pedestrian accident involving a left turn at an intersection were about twice as high for SUVs as cars. That figure increased to nearly three times as high for vans and minivans and nearly four times as high for pickup trucks. The study also found an elevated risk of fatalities involving right turns for those vehicles, although not to the same extent.

“We already know that larger vehicles cause more severe injuries when they strike pedestrians,” said IIHS Vice President of Research Jessica Cicchino. “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.”

Larger vehicles and pedestrian accidents

Although the study did not definitively determine why larger vehicles are more dangerous when turning, the authors speculated that it may have to do with the A-pillars — the metal struts on either side of the windshield that connect the roof to the body of the vehicle. Heavier vehicles like vans and SUVs need wider, thicker A-pillars to stop the roof from collapsing during a rollover, but those A-pillars also give the vehicle larger blind spots on the left and right, increasing the risk that the driver won't see a pedestrian when turning.

“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,” said IIHS Senior Transportation Engineer Wen Hu.

Other characteristics of larger vehicles that could affect pedestrian safety include high ride height and long front ends.

The IIHS findings highlight the need for accountability

Design improvements to both vehicles and intersections could go a long way to reduce the risk of fatal pedestrian accidents involving trucks, vans, and SUVs. At the end of the day, however, no engineering solution can replace the need for safe, responsible operators.

If you choose to drive a large vehicle with large blind spots, you have a legal responsibility to operate that vehicle safely. That means checking twice for pedestrians and other vulnerable road users, avoiding distracted or impaired driving, and always putting safety first.

Talk to a pedestrian accident attorney if you were hit by a car, truck, or SUV

If you've been hurt by a negligent driver in a pedestrian accident, you have rights under Maine law. We can protect them. Don't let the insurance company take advantage of your situation; hold the driver who hurt you accountable and pursue full compensation for your injuries.  Contact us today for a free case evaluation with an experienced pedestrian accident attorney. We have seven offices conveniently located throughout Maine.

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