Why SUVs are Becoming the Focal Point of Pedestrian Safety

Ontario has seen a significant rise in car accidents resulting in a personal injury or death – particularly those involving pedestrians and cyclists. The Ministry of Transport road safety report lists 50,032 passenger car collisions causing fatalities and personal injuries in the province. In a missed opportunity, the report does not distinguish between cars and trucks; but, if it did, SUVs and pick-up trucks would likely be the worst offenders.

“Everyone is responsible for avoiding collisions”, says the MTO’s Drivers handbook. It means drivers of large vehicles have a greater responsibility to be able to drive their vehicle safely. By reason of their sheer size and weight, Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) and pick-up trucks are significantly more difficult to manoeuvre than lighter vehicles.

Whether a pedestrian, a (motor) cyclist or even someone in a smaller or lower car, the injuries sustained in a collision with large vehicles are significantly worse. It means a driver behind the wheel of an SUV or pick-up truck has a greater duty of care: that they must be cognizant of the dimensions and performance of their vehicle.

Studies continue to show that car accidents involving a larger vehicle have a higher chance of resulting in serious or fatal injuries. For every additional 450 kilograms on the weight of a car, it becomes 40 per cent more likely to turn an otherwise survivable crash into a fatal collision.

And the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety notes in a recent report an 81 percent spike in pedestrian deaths caused by an SUV between 2009 and 2016.

The additional mass of an SUV is not the sole reason for the increased severity of injuries to pedestrians and cyclists and even occupants of other cars, it is their frontal geometry too. The much higher hood and radiator structures mean that greater risk of injury to the thoracic and abdominal core of the body.

It is worse for occupants in standard height cars too. The high crash structure of SUVs and their tendency to ‘ride over’ means drivers of smaller vehicles are four times more likely to die in the collision, found a study by the University of Buffalo.

For many city dwellers who get around by bicycle, on foot or simply driving a smaller car, this evidence poses a serious threat. If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident, reach out to a car accident lawyer at Will Davidson LLP. Our experienced team of personal injury lawyers has tremendous experience investigating car accidents, particularly those which involve large vehicles. We will assess your accident, give you advice about compensation and help you determine how best to take your claim forward.

Can cities do more to protect vulnerable road users?


A healthy, efficient, and safe transportation network is critical to every city’s economy. Yet, as personal injury lawyers in Toronto and the GTA know, pedestrians and cyclists are perhaps more at risk in 2018 than they have ever been.

Road safety experts believe that there are several keys to protecting vulnerable road users, including improved road design, infrastructure upgrades, and traffic law changes. Below, we’ll look at how each of these could help improve road safety in your community.

Road Design

Perhaps the most effective way to protect vulnerable road users is to design roads that take them into consideration from inception. This March, Reuters reported that Florida’s Complete Streets policy, a 1984 law mandating that road design accommodate cyclists and pedestrians, has led to a significant reduction in pedestrian deaths compared to other American states. Fatalities dropped about a half percent more per quarter than in the rest of the nation, resulting in an estimated 3,500 and 3,900 saved lives between 1984 and 2013.

“While our conversations often focus on the problem, far more infrequent are discussions that focus on solutions and ways to prevent these deaths,” University of Georgia researcher Jamila Porter told Reuters in an email. “Complete Streets policies are one such solution.”

Infrastructure Improvements

Designing roads from scratch isn’t an option in most major cities, which means steady infrastructure upgrades are necessary to improve safety. In Toronto, the city has widened sidewalks, implemented bike lanes, installed speed bumps, and added crosswalks, all for the purpose of making streets as useful and accessible for pedestrians and cyclists as they are for motor vehicles.

However, many stakeholders say the city’s process to implement traffic-calming measures is unnecessarily slow and complex, the Toronto Star reports.

Rule Changes

Safety advocates, including personal injury lawyers, believe that reduced speed limits could have a significant impact on road safety in the City of Toronto. In theory, lowering a speed limit in an area where motor vehicle collisions are common shouldn’t require years of planning or significant investment. But, as Walk Toronto’s Dylan Reid told the Star, the city’s process makes minor changes incredibly challenging to institute.

“It’s definitely conceived at the moment as a way of discouraging measures unless they’re so obviously required that (city officials) can’t say ‘no,’” he said. “As opposed to taking an approach that says, ‘we’re trying to make the city safer in every possible way.”

Canadian cities are slowly implementing strategies to improve road safety and reduce serious injuries among vulnerable road users. If you or a member of your family has been injured, contact Will Davidson LLP’s team of talented personal injury lawyers today to learn how we can help.


Image credit: Roozbeh Rokni/Flickr

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