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Opinion: Large SUVs And Pickups Are a Safety Hazard in Cities

Jess Mathews Jess Mathews Opinion: Large SUVs And Pickups Are a Safety Hazard in Cities
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The large SUVs and obnoxiously-sized pickup trucks that are clogging our streets…I cringe at them. Any time I see one, not only do I cringe, but I am reminded that the car manufacturers are getting away with murder.


Federal regulators (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) have known since 2015 that these larger SUVs and pickup trucks are more deadly and have neglected to do much about it. They are deadlier due to greater mass and a higher front-end grill that is less aerodynamic and “geometrically more blunt.” Not only are the front-end grills higher, they are longer and not everyone who is sitting high up can see over the long hoods. With these higher, more powerful SUV and pickup trucks, they tend to be driven at higher speeds.

“Speed is the most important determinant of whether a pedestrian dies in a crash,” said John Wetmore, a national pedestrian advocate in a Detroit Free Press article on SUVs and pedestrian deaths.

Graphic via Walker Evans

Currently, in North America it is not regulated to consider pedestrian impact in the vehicle design. The way North America deals with pedestrian impact is to the blame the pedestrian. Because of our addiction to cars and dangerous street design, when a conflict happens between a driver and a pedestrian or person riding a bike, we have been brainwashed into immediately blaming the vulnerable user of the road…not the driver, and certainly not the crappy street design. The cherished car manufacturers know this, and they continue to manipulate the conversation by funding ‘distracted walking’ campaigns to educate us on how to walk. This is widespread in the newspapers we read and the news coverage we watch. And why? Because car is king in this country.

Every one of these large SUVs and pickup trucks sells the image of domination. Ah, the carefully crafted world of marketing to macho men in pickup trucks. What exactly needs to be dominated in urban areas? Is it older people crossing the street or the ruggedness of an insanely large pothole? These large vehicles create greater wear and tear on our roads, they limit line of sight if they are parked closest to an intersection, and they are larger than some standard-size parking spaces. 

Columbus is increasingly growing greater in density. Over the past four years, local crashes between drivers and pedestrians continue to increase. On a nation level, we’ve reached a ten-year high regarding pedestrian fatalities. The growth in fatalities is attributable to these large SUVs and pickups as they comprise 65% of the market.

These statistics have names and loved ones. We can’t continue to ignore that these large vehicles pose a greater threat when there’s a crash involving pedestrians. We need local action to reduce the places where these vehicles can be. We must continue to do more to change the urban hierarchy of cars before people. 

— Jessica Mathews

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