Consumers across Washington and the rest of the nation are showing a growing preference for large trucks and SUVs, rather than traditional sedans. Many who opt for these large, heavy vehicles do so because they feel safer in a bigger vehicle, believing the extra metal and material serve as additional safety barriers for themselves and their loved ones.
However, Slate reports that, while larger vehicles may offer extra protections for those riding inside them, they create new dangers for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers or passengers riding in other vehicles in the event of a crash.
How popular bigger cars have become
SUVs first burst onto the American automotive market about 20 years ago. The first time SUV sales exceeded traditional sedan sales was in 2002, and sales have continued to climb steadily in the years since. Now, four out of every five cars sold across the United States is either an SUV or a large truck. This is troubling given that larger cars have higher leading edges and are more prone to causing major damage by striking pedestrians and cyclists higher up on their bodies.
How bigger cars impact fatality rates
As SUV and large truck sales rose in recent years, so, too, did the number of pedestrian and cyclist deaths occurring on the nation’s roads. Pedestrian fatalities hit a 40-year high in 2021, with studies showing that SUVs are between two and three times more likely than regular cars to kill a pedestrian. Cyclist deaths also rose 44% within this timeframe.
In 2020, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety published a report analyzing the increased risks SUVs create for pedestrians. However, major changes in the industry have yet to follow suit.