Larger vehicles may create blind spots for drivers with A-pillars that support the roof, making it difficult for them to see pedestrians as they make turns. File Photo by Roger L. Wollenberg/UPI | License Photo
March 17 (UPI) -- Drivers of larger vehicles such as pickup trucks, SUVs, vans or minivans are more likely to strike pedestrians while turning than those in smaller cars, a highway safety study showed on Thursday.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said the study indicates bigger vehicles may not give drivers enough of a view to see people crossing the road.
"We already know that larger vehicles cause more severe injuries when they strike pedestrians," said IIHS Vice President of Research Jessica Cicchino, one of the study's authors. "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."
According to the study, the odds that a crash that killed a crossing pedestrian involved a left turn instead of no turn were twice as high for SUVs, three times as high for vans and minivans, and nearly four times as high for pickup trucks compared to cars. For right turns, the odds were 89% higher for pickups and 63% higher for SUVs than for cars.
The IIHS said turning crashes accounted for more than 900 of about 5,800 fatal pedestrian crashes between 2014-18.
The institute pointed to the structure of larger vehicles -- and the possibility of blind spots -- as the possible reason for the increase in crashes compared to cars.
"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.
High ride heights and long front ends could also impede drivers' views, the IIHS said.
"Improving vehicle design, along with addressing road infrastructure and vehicle speeds, can play an important part in reducing pedestrian crashes and fatalities," Hu said. "Our findings suggest that looking at the problem through the lens of vehicle type could also be productive."
Fatal pedestrian crashes have increased each year since 2009, when they hit a low point. In 2020, the most recent year for which data are available, there were 6,500 deaths and 54,700 pedestrian injuries. The IIHS suspects the increase in deaths could be blamed on the growing number of larger vehicles on U.S. roads.