A study released Tuesday by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows that vehicles with tall, boxy front ends are more likely to kill pedestrians in an impact.
The IIHS looked at nearly 18,000 single-pedestrian crashes involving cars, trucks, SUVs, pickups, and vans and found that vehicles with a hood height greater than 40 inches are roughly 45 percent more likely to cause fatalities in pedestrian impacts versus vehicles with a nose height of 30 inches or less and a sloping front end profile. The study also discovered that vehicles with hood heights of 30 to 40 inches and a more blunt, vertical front end increases risk of injuries to pedestrians.
"Some of today’s vehicles are pretty intimidating when you’re passing in front of them in a crosswalk," IIHS President David Harkey said in a statement. "These results tell us our instincts are correct: More aggressive-looking vehicles can indeed do more harm."
From the IIHS study:
To examine the connection between fatality risk and vehicle size and shape, IIHS researchers analyzed 17,897 crashes involving a single passenger vehicle and a single pedestrian. Using Vehicle Identification Numbers to identify the crash-involved vehicles, they calculated key front-end measurements corresponding to 2,958 unique car, minivan, large van, SUV and pickup models from photographs. They excluded vehicles with pedestrian automatic emergency braking systems and controlled for other factors that could affect the likelihood of a fatality, such as the speed limit and age and sex of the struck pedestrian.
The IIHS found that while sloping front ends did not reduce the risk of injury for pedestrians for the tallest hoods, they did for vehicles with hood heights of 30 to 40 inches. Vehicles with noses that are tall with a more blunt front end were 26 percent more likely to kill pedestrians in an impact. Vehicles with with flatter hoods (angled at 15 percent or less) result in a 25 percent greater chance of pedestrian fatality, regardless of nose height or front end shape.
"Manufacturers can make vehicles less dangerous to pedestrians by lowering the front end of the hood and angling the grille and hood to create a sloped profile," IIHS Senior Research Transportation Engineer and study author Wen Hu said in a statement. "There’s no functional benefit to these massive, blocky fronts."
The study concluded that vehicles with front ends taller than 35 inches are more dangerous for pedestrians because they tend to cause more severe head injuries in an impact. And of those taller vehicles, those with vertical front ends were even more dangerous, as torso and hip injuries were "more frequent and severe."
"It’s clear that the increasing size of the vehicles in the U.S. fleet is costing pedestrians their lives," Harkey added. "We encourage automakers to consider these findings and take a hard look at the height and shape of their SUVs and pickups."