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The surge in popularity of sport utlity vehicles in the US has come at a cost, with SUVs overtaking sedans in fatal pedestrian accidents. Experts attribute the higher profile of the front of SUVs—the collision point in most pedestrian collisions—as leading to a higher death rate compared to lower profile sedans.  

  • Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reveals that light trucks—including SUVs, minivans, and pickup trucks—now account for 42.2 percent of pedestrian fatalities in the United States.
  • Almost 6,000 pedestrians were killed in accidents related to road traffic on or along US roads in 2016 alone, which is 1.85 fatalities per 100,000 people and an increase from 1.3 fatalities per 100,000 in 2009.
  • On a state-by-state basis, California, Texas, and Florida reported the highest total number of fatalities in 2016, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. On a per capita basis, Florida and New Mexico had the highest rates.

General traffic fatalities have been on a clear downward trend in the United States since 1990, with some deviation depending on the user group in question. Accidents among cyclists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians increased between 2010 and 2015, whereas the number of moped users killed in road accidents decreased during the same period, according to the International Transport Forum

  • Scanning the globe, the United States was the absolute leader in road fatalities in 2016, according to the International Transport Forum. Almost 28,000 people died in US traffic accidents, a rate twice that of South Africa, the country with the second highest rate.
  • The US ranks ninth globally following countries including South Africa, Malaysia, and Uruguay, based on fatalities per 100,000 people.

The increased popularity of SUVs among Americans suggests that communities and governments will have to work together to reduce the risk to pedestrians.

  • Pedestrian safety advocates are promoting combined enforcement efforts targeted at driver behavior, lowered speed limits, and training for cab drivers, for example. 
  • Some cities have aggressively implemented measures to increase pedestrian safety as well, including reducing roads from four to three lanes, adding lighted bicycle traffic signals, and increasing enforcement, among other measures.

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