American Pickup Trucks in 2023: Bigger, Heavier, Deadlier
Back in 2021, we covered a topic we believe deserved more conversation: the lethality of today’s SUVs. As the number of pedestrian crash deaths in the US steadily rises each year, it is becoming increasingly obvious that there is a correlation between car size and lethality.
A variety of studies have proven this link, with data showing that SUVs and minivans are twice as likely as other vehicles to kill pedestrians stricken in a collision. But another type of vehicle seems to be driving these numbers as well: pickup trucks.
According to an estimate provided by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), 7,485 pedestrians were struck and killed by a vehicle in 2021. This is the highest number recorded in 40 years, representing an alarming 12% increase from the previous year. Reports have shown that reckless, impaired, and distracted driving have contributed to the overall number of accidents and pedestrian collisions. However, one of the most significant determining factors in whether a crash is fatal is the size of the vehicle – and pickup trucks on American streets are growing in size as well as in number.
Huge pickups and more of them
In the US, the top three best-selling vehicles of 2022 were all pickup trucks. But while trucks have always been a popular choice among the American population, they haven’t always looked like they do today. In the 1980s, around half of pickup trucks were categorized as small to mid-size.
Today, full-size trucks constitute the vast majority of vehicle sales, with the small trucks of the 80s now practically nonexistent. This explains why, between 1990 and 2021, the average weight of pickup trucks has increased by around 32%. With bigger, heavier trucks and so many more of them on the road today than in past decades, it becomes easy to see how and why pedestrian death tolls are ballooning right alongside them.
Larger trucks, larger death tolls
As pick-up trucks grow, so do pedestrian fatalities. While heavier vehicles often mean more forceful impacts, many factors besides weight contribute to this correlation as well. A recent Consumer Reports study found that the hoods of today’s full-size trucks are, on average, around 24% taller than they were in 2000. What this often translates to is a “front blind spot” — an area where the driver can’t see what’s directly in front of the vehicle — about 11 feet longer than the average sedan.
Furthermore, the taller front grill area of large pickup trucks means that pedestrians are struck at a higher point of the body, often in the head, shoulders or upper torso. This makes truck collisions much more likely to be deadly for pedestrians. It also means that women, children, the elderly, and wheelchair users are especially vulnerable.
Pickup trucks are a hazard for everyone, not just pedestrians
Because of their weight, high point of impact, and hazardous blind spots, it’s evident how today’s massive pickup trucks have created serious safety issues for pedestrians and cyclists. But how do other drivers fare in collisions with these outsize vehicles? Not well, according to a report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
Their research showed that pickup trucks pose a disproportionate danger to smaller cars, with researchers stating that “pickups were 2½ times as likely to be involved in a crash that was fatal for a car or minivan driver than other cars and minivans were.” If the risk posed to pedestrians and other vehicles wasn’t compelling enough, one Berkeley study concluded that pickup trucks are dangerous for their own drivers too. After comparing driver fatality risk to vehicle type, it was revealed that, even though most cars are safer than SUVs, drivers of pickup trucks are at an even higher risk than drivers of SUVs.
When considering the growing threat posed to pedestrians, other drivers, as well as pickup truck drivers themselves, it is likely that collisions involving these vehicles are likely to steadily increase. Regardless of the car type, you may be entitled to compensation if you are injured in a motor vehicle collision. At Plaxen Adler Muncy, P.A, we are here to help. To schedule a free consultation about your case, please reach out to us at any of our Maryland locations, call our office or use our contact form.