Large passenger vehicles put pedestrians at greater riskSUVs, pickups and minivans are more likely to hit pedestrians when turning than other types of vehicles, according to a new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. They’re also more dangerous on straightaways. That news is especially unsettling for people over 65 who, although they tend to walk less compared to other age groups, comprise 20% of pedestrians fatally injured in crashes, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Why are SUVs more dangerous to pedestrians?Researchers have long known that fatality rates are higher among pedestrians hit by larger vehicles with higher bumpers, grilles and headlights. What makes this study different is the fact it shows that larger vehicles are more likely to hit pedestrians in the first place.
Study authors suggested that drivers of larger vehicles, which have wider support pillars between windows, may not be able to see pedestrians as clearly as drivers of smaller vehicles.
In contrast with declining fatality rates among drivers and vehicle passengers, pedestrian fatalities have risen about 59% in the past decade, since hitting their low in 2009.
How can I improve pedestrian safety as a driver?
- If you drive a larger vehicle, be mindful of your increased risk.
- Keep headlights clean and polish or replace yellowed or oxidized headlights. That will help you see pedestrians.
- Don’t wave on pedestrians mid-block or for whom the crossing signal hasn’t yet changed. Drivers behind you won’t be expecting you to stop, and oncoming drivers won’t anticipate a pedestrian suddenly emerging on their side of the road.
- Stop well in front of crosswalks. You’ll help other drivers realize a pedestrian is crossing.
- Don’t overtake a stopped vehicle. Chances are, it’s stopped for a pedestrian.
- Slow down in dark or wet conditions, particularly around schools.
How can I improve my safety as a pedestrian?
- Beware of cars making turns, especially right turns. Drivers looking left for traffic may not notice that you’ve entered the crosswalk on their right. If possible, try to make eye contact with the driver.
- Make sure traffic has stopped before you enter a crosswalk, even though the signal has changed.
- Use only one earbud so you can hear traffic approaching. Another option: bone conduction headphones, which won’t impede your ability to hear environmental sounds around you.
- Don’t use your phone to text, read or talk. In a PEMCO Poll, 42% of people admit they text, read or talk as they walk down the street.
- Walk with your head up and avoid temptation to “beat the light” by stepping into the intersection with seconds to spare.
- Dress in light colors, put reflective tape on your jacket and consider wearing a headlamp or carrying a flashlight. Pedestrian accidents increase dramatically in the fall when we switch back to Standard Time and it’s dark when people are getting off work.
- Opt for routes with sidewalks. If none are available, walk facing traffic.
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