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SUVs 'eight times more dangerous' to kids walking or cycling than smaller cars are

US study found SUVs were involved in much fewer crashes than standard cars – but in twice as many fatal ones

A recent study from the US has found that children are eight times more likely to be killed in a collision involving an SUV or pick-up truck than they are in a crash in which a standard passenger car is involved.

Published in the Journal of Safety Research, the study comes at a time when such vehicles are getting increasingly large, and as SUVs make up an increasingly large proportion of new cars sold especially in affluent urban areas.

Many are bough by parents, with SUVs being seen – and widely promoted – as the perfect vehicle for families with children, but researchers from the University of Illinois in Springfield have established that they are posing an increasing danger to kids, or at least those on the outside of the vehicle.

Co-authors Micky Edwards and Daniel Leonard analysed collision and hospitals admission data in Illinois from 2016-19 for the study, which was funded by the funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Illinois Department of Public Health.

They cross-analysed the types of vehicles involved in crashes in which the victim was a pedestrian or cyclist against the outcome for the patient, with one of their chief discoveries being that SUVs were the type of car that led to the most serious injuries, as well as deaths, and in particular when a child was involved.

For example, in 62 per cent of collisions with a child on foot or on a bike, a passenger car was involved, and 19 per cent of fatalities happened following such a crash; SUVs by contrast were involved in much fewer collisions – 16.9 per cent – but were the vehicle involved in fully 40 per cent of the fatal ones.

The co-authors said that the study underlined “the high cost of large motor vehicles on pedestrian and pedal cyclist injury severity, fatalities, and hospital charges,” adding that “once more, the most vulnerable among us seem to bear the greatest burden.”

Factors behind the greater risk that SUVs present to children in particular include their size – it is not uncommon to see pictures on social media of children or even adults dwarfed by an SUV they are standing next to, and such photos also serve to underline another issue, namely the highly restricted  visibility such vehicles typically afford compared to smaller cars.

Their sheer size and weight is of course another factor affecting the severity of crashes involving SUVs and vulnerable road users.

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Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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