You might not think of your SUV or minivan as a light truck, but it – along with every pickup truck on the nation’s highways – is part of the largest American vehicle segment by far. In fact, more than two out of every three new vehicles sold in the United States is now categorized as a “light truck,” and cities across the country are taking note of not only the environmental impacts of the trend, but also the impact it is having on pedestrian safety.
Experts have been watching in horror as pedestrian deaths have risen 45% in the past ten years. An additional 38% of cyclists have also been killed on the road in the same timeframe. As vehicles have become safer than ever before for those contained within them, our level of distraction, combined with the sheer size and height of what is now most vehicles on the road has been a nightmare for those around them.
As reported by Bloomberg’s CityLab, the Governor’s Highway Safety Association now sees SUVs and their ever-growing popularity as the number one cause for the increasing number of pedestrians being killed in their states. As a result, several states are considering a variety of measures to try to encourage the purchase of smaller vehicles for both their citizens and their own vehicle fleets.
Among the suggestions are an increase in the number of city parking spots reserved for compact vehicles and an increase in parking and storage fees for larger vehicles. Other municipalities have considered the banning of after-market protective additions to the fronts of SUVs known as “bull bars.” The metal attachments are generally used to protect the vehicle from off-road hazards, however, in many cases, they are used primarily as a cosmetic upgrade to the vehicle. Depending on how they are applied, the bars can change the way a vehicle behaves in a collision and create a fatal encounter out of one that might have only resulted in the proper crumpling of a vehicle’s safety zones.
While no specific guidance has come from the federal government as to how the states might start to get a handle on this problem before numbers rise even further, one former National Highway Transportation Safety Administration official is encouraging them to just do something. “Put something out there and see what you can do,” says former NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind. “Let’s collect data and see if it makes a difference or not. After all, you can pilot policy as well as technology.”