The Impact of Changes in Vehicle Design on Pedestrian Safety in the United States


Tessalyn Morrison


pedestrian, vehicle, safety, epidemiology


Introduction: Over the last 10 years, the United States has seen a 50% increase in pedestrian deaths. The reasons for this increase are multifactorial, but include the rising proportion of SUVs and pickup trucks on the road and an increase in the number of miles driven per capita by people in the United States. Changes in SUV and pickup design, namely increases in vehicle height and curb weight have also been posited to be related to pedestrian injury and death.

Methods: The objective of the study was to assess changes in pedestrian trauma rates over the last 30 years by measuring mediating effects of vehicle design. Association analysis of the relationship between crash year, vehicle characteristics, and Abbreviated Injury Scale or death using fatal and non-fatal vehicle-pedestrian crash data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

Results: Between 1991 and 2018, there has been a drop and then an increase in pedestrian fatalities. SUV and pickup involvement (vs. car involvement) has increased over the last 30 years. SUV and pickup models are increasing in height and curb weight. There were no relationships observed between vehicle design and pedestrian injury or death.

Conclusion: With increasing heights and curb weights of SUV and pickups over the last 30 years, pedestrians are at a potentially greater risk of injury and death.


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