Vehicles with a high, squared-off front end are more likely to kill pedestrians in the event of a collision than those with lower, sloping front ends, a recent IIHS study indicates.
According to data presented by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or IIHS, both the height and shape of a vehicle’s front end affect the lethality of accidents involving pedestrians.
The IIHS research indicates the exact shape of a vehicle’s nose may be a moot point if it is 40 inches tall or higher. With front ends this high, fatalities among pedestrians struck by vehicles are 45 percent more numerous than deaths caused by those with 30-inch or lower front ends. The large contact area with the pedestrian’s body in these cases increases the seriousness of injuries and likelihood of death.
However, for vehicles with a front end between those two heights – the fatally dangerous 40 inches and the safer 30 inches – front-end shape is far more important. Sloping front ends between 30 and 40 inches high are safer than those with a vertical, blunt shape, which are potential killers. Squared-off “battering ram” fronts in this height range caused 26 percent more deaths than sloping configurations of the same height.
David Harkey, president of IIHS, commented that vehicles with high front ends are “pretty intimidating when you’re passing in front of them in a crosswalk” and that “our instincts are correct” that “aggressive-looking vehicles can indeed do more harm.”
The proliferation of larger vehicles such as SUVs and pickup trucks, and the expansion of these models’ dimensions in recent years, may be contributing to rising pedestrian deaths from vehicular collision. Since 1990, according to the IIHS, the average vehicle now weighs half a ton more and is 8 inches taller. Meanwhile, 80 percent more pedestrians are being killed than in 2009, with over 7,300 fatalities in 2021.
Overall, heights over 40 inches and grilles sloped at 65 degrees or less were the deadliest front end design features. IIHS researcher Wen Hu noted that “lowering the front end of the hood and angling the grille and hood to create a sloped profile” will create far less dangerous vehicles regardless of the vehicle’s overall size.
Hu added that there is “no functional benefit to these massive, blocky fronts” such as those found on the Cadillac Escalade SUV, Chevy Silverado HD pickup, and many other popular GM truck and sport-utility models.