Vehicles of all styles and sizes have always posed a risk to pedestrians. Even before the advent of motor vehicles, horses and carriages could cause fatal pedestrian injuries. With the proliferation of motor vehicles has come a new, very significant risk for pedestrians.
Statistically, that risk has worsened in recent years. Some of the increased risk for pedestrians relates to unsafe driving habits. However, some of the risk is the result of design decisions made by those building automobiles. Two trends, in particular, are contributing to an increased risk that pedestrians face on modern roads.
The trend toward taller vehicles
People like bigger vehicles because they make the occupants feel safer. Research does show that bigger vehicles tend to do a better job protecting occupants in the event of a crash. Unfortunately, bigger vehicles pose a much more significant threat to pedestrians. Not only are they heavier, which means they have more momentum, but they are taller as well. That added height is a serious risk factor. Taller vehicles are more dangerous. Their point of impact is higher on the body, making brain injuries more likely. Vehicles with a hood height of more than 40 inches have a 45% greater chance of causing the death of a pedestrian than a vehicle with a hood height of 30 inches or less.
Smaller windows and windshields
For many years, automakers have used special tempered glass to reduce injuries during collisions. Tempered glass breaks into smaller, more rounded pieces that are less dangerous than the glass used in residential windows, for example. Recent trends have also led to manufacturers reducing the size of windows. Crash testing makes it clear that smaller windows and windshields are less likely to shatter and cause serious injuries to vehicle occupants than larger windows and windshields. Unfortunately, making the windows smaller means creating bigger blind spots around vehicles. Pedestrians near the edge of a vehicle may not be visible to drivers because of smaller windshields. Those bigger blind spots likely contribute to the increased number of frontover crashes occurring in driveways and parking lots.
Understanding how different factors contribute to pedestrian risks may help people hold the right parties accountable after a major pedestrian crash.