SUVs may be more dangerous for pedestrians: US study

Study from the US shows SUVs, trucks, and vans more likely to injure pedestrians – possibly due to vision issues.
PHOTO: CarBuyer

A recent study by the USA’s Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has linked pedestrian vs vehicle crash types to certain types of motor vehicle, namely LTVs – or light truck vehicles. In the USA, this is used to refer to SUVs, pickup trucks, minivans (what we call multi-purpose vehicles or MPVs here).

The study – titled The association between pedestrian crash types and passenger vehicle types – showed that LTVs were more likely to be involved in accidents where vehicles hit pedestrians while they were 1.Crossing the road normally 2. Crossing the road during a right turn and 3. Walking along a road.

BMW 220i Active Tourer – excellent visibility from BMW’s MPV
PHOTO: CarBuyer

The conclusion of the study is that this implies “potentially problematic visibility of pedestrians near the front corners of these vehicles” – ironically this has also come about as a result of the need for stronger A-pillars (those at the front of the car joining the body to the roof) because of more stringent rollover tests.

What does this mean for you, the Singaporean car buyer? It’s not so much the type of car, but the styling.

In the USA, a land obsessed with huge, heavy trucks the A-pillar thing is certainly a problem, but also the USA loves tall vehicles – and that means pedestrians can easily be obscured.

Raked windscreen means not-so-good visibility for coupes, though their lack of height offsets that.
PHOTO: CarBuyer

In Singapore, this is less common since we’re not as obsessed with truly humongous cars yet – though SUVs are already the most popular car type here.

But we think the key factor affecting driver vision in Singapore is not just the type of car, but the style of car: Cars with raked (sloping) windscreens especially, like coupes and coupe-styled SUVs, are the worst offenders. But because coupes are typically low, pedestrians can still easily be seen since they ‘stick up’ from your windshield. The opposite is true for tall vehicles.

When test driving a vehicle, pay attention to the A-pillars – not just how thick they are, but if the design seems to block vision. In our experience, cars with outboard mirrors (side mirrors not mounted onto the A-pillar itself) have better visibility, and those with extra ‘cutout’ windows for increased visibility.

For example, we find most MPVs to have excellent vision, while SUVs are hit and miss: the city slickin’ – BMW iX is superb, the tall, upright Kia Sonet is likewise good.

Coupe-SUVs usually have the worst of both worlds: Tall stance and raked, thick pillars.
PHOTO: CarBuyer

In contrast, the coupe-styled Renault Arkana can easily hide a cyclist in its A-pillar. Citroen’s C4 went from hatchback to coupe-crossover and its A-pillar visibility suffers as a result.

What to do if you don’t want to run over someone by accident? Pay extra attention on the road – especially when making left turns. These days, many cars come with active safety as standard, and some have pedestrian detection too. Disclaimer though: Some won’t detect pedestrians approaching from the side.

This article was first published in CarBuyer.