New research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has found that big trucks and SUVs, particularly those with flat front ends, pose a greater risk to pedestrians. The study analyzed nearly 18,000 incidents of vehicles striking pedestrians and discovered that vehicles with grille areas that are 40 inches or taller are 45% more likely to cause fatalities. While tall front ends are commonly seen in full-size trucks and SUVs, even smaller vehicles like the Jeep Renegade can have boxy front-ends that pose a danger. The study also revealed that vehicles with box-shaped front ends, regardless of their height, are approximately 26% more likely to kill a pedestrian. Since 2009, pedestrian fatalities have increased by over 80%, with nearly 7,400 people being struck and killed by vehicles in 2021. While factors like speeding and poor road design contribute to this problem, the growing popularity of big trucks and SUVs is also a concern. The IIHS suggests that manufacturers can reduce the danger to pedestrians by lowering the front end of the hood and angling the grille and hood to create a sloped profile. Vehicles with front ends over 35 inches high, especially those without a gentle downward slope, are more likely to cause severe injuries to the head, torso, and hips, particularly for shorter pedestrians. The research controlled for various factors that could affect the risk of injury, such as the speed limit and the age and sex of the pedestrian. Vehicles equipped with automatic braking and pedestrian detection, which have been proven to reduce pedestrian injuries, were excluded from the study. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has proposed making this technology mandatory. Some automakers, like General Motors and Ford, have already implemented such safety features in their vehicles. The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, an industry group representing major automakers in the US, stated that its members are investing significantly in improving pedestrian safety. NHTSA has also proposed adding pedestrian safety tests to its crash tests and safety measurements for new vehicles. IIHS President David Harkey urges automakers to consider these findings and reassess the height and shape of their trucks and SUVs, as the increasing size of vehicles in the US fleet is putting pedestrians at risk.
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